Was the past genetic contribution of women and men to the current human population equal? Was polygyny (excess of breeding women) present among hominid lineages? We addressed these questions by measuring the ratio of population recombination rates between the X chromosome and the autosomes, rho(X)/rho(A). The X chromosome recombines only in female meiosis, whereas autosomes undergo crossovers in both sexes; thus, rho(X)/rho(A) reflects the female-to-male breeding ratio, beta. We estimated beta from rho(X)/rho(A) inferred from genomic diversity data and calibrated with recombination rates derived from pedigree data. For the HapMap populations, we obtained beta of 1.4 in the Yoruba from West Africa, 1.3 in Europeans, and 1.1 in East Asian samples. These values are consistent with a high prevalence of monogamy and limited polygyny in human populations. More mutations occur during male meiosis as compared to female meiosis at the rate ratio referred to as alpha. We show that at alpha not equal 1, the divergence rates and genetic diversities of the X chromosome relative to the autosomes are complex functions of both alpha and beta, making their independent estimation difficult. Because our estimator of beta does not require any knowledge of the mutation rates, our approach should allow us to dissociate the effects of alpha and beta on the genetic diversity and divergence rate ratios of the sex chromosomes to the autosomes.
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