Fathers are older than mothers for 250,000 years

Fathers are older than mothers for 250,000 years

Fathers are older than mothers for 250,000 years

Scientists have discovered a new way to determine the average age at which men and women have reproduced in human evolutionary history.

By studying DNA mutations in modern humans, they discovered a window that allowed them to peer into the past 250,000 years.

“Through our research on modern humans, we’ve noticed that we can predict the age at which people will have children based on the types of DNA mutations they’ve left behind for their children,” says study co-author Matthew Hahn, a genomic scientist at Indiana University Bloomington.

“We then applied this model to our human ancestors to determine at what age our ancestors reproduced.”

They found that over the past 250,000 years, the average age at which humans had children was 26.9 years. (For context, 300,000 years ago is also roughly the time our species emerged.)

Mean Homo sapien father was always older than average Homo sapien the study found that men become parents at the age of 30.7, compared to 23.2 for women.

But the age gap has narrowed over the last 5,000 years, the researchers add, noting that the study’s latest estimates suggest that the average age at which women become parents is now 28. They suggest that this trend seems to be driven mainly by women having children at an older age.

However, in addition to the recent increase in maternal age, the study found remarkable consistency in the average age of new parents over the lifetime of our species. The team reports that it has not increased steadily since prehistoric times, although it has changed over time.

The average age of conception appears to have dropped around 10,000 years ago, and since this coincided roughly with the advent of agriculture and the beginning of civilization, scientists say this may be related to the rapid population growth at the time.

Recorded history goes back only a few thousand years at best, and such extensive population information is difficult to glean from archaeological evidence alone.

But the secrets of our ancestors also lurk in each of us today, and so Hahn and his colleagues stumbled upon a way to determine the age of parents so far back in time.

The new study is based on the discovery of de novo mutations – DNA changes that occur in one family member and occur spontaneously rather than being inherited through the family tree.

While working on another project involving these new genetic changes and parents of known agescientists have noticed an interesting pattern. Based on data from thousands of children, the pattern and number of new mutations formed in parents before being passed on to children depends on the age of each parent at conception.

This allowed the researchers to estimate the separate generation times of males and females over 250,000 years.

“These mutations from the past accumulate with each generation and exist in humans today,” says study co-author and Indiana University phylogeneticist Richard Wang.

“We can now identify these mutations, see how they differ between male and female parents, and how they change with the age of the parents.”

The researchers note that previous studies have also used genetic cues to estimate generational lengths, but have typically relied on comparisons between modern DNA and ancient samples that have been averaged across genders and over the past 40,000 to 45,000 years.

“The story of human history consists of various sources: written records, archaeological finds, fossils, etc.” Wang says.

“Our genomes, the DNA found in each of our cells, offer a sort of manuscript of human evolutionary history.

“The results of our genetic analysis confirm some things we knew from other sources, but also offer a richer understanding of the demographics of ancient people.”

The study was published in Science progress.

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