According to the results of a new DNA study, most European men living today are likely to have descended from just one of ten men.

Researchers used DNA samples from the Y-chromosomes of roughly 1,000 men from various parts of Europe. The Y-chromosome is passed only from fathers to sons, and over time, its specific DNA sequence collects changes in the sequence of base pairs -- the code of letters that make up each strand of DNA.

The researchers looked at differences as small as one DNA letter at 22 places on the Y-chromosomes that had previously been identified as markers specific to European men and their ancestors.

After extracting the DNA from cell samples of 1,000 men who are currently living in Europe, the researchers were able to lump nearly 95% of the men into 10 different groups.

"Almost all of the Y-chromosomes analyzed in the present study belong to 10 lineages characterized by simple mutations in the DNA sequence," reported author Dr. Ornella Semino of the University of Pavia, Italy, and his colleagues in the Nov. 9th issue of Science.

This Y-chromosome analysis adds to our understanding of how Europe was populated, and specifically, what types of migration patterns took place.
For instance, the genetic evaluation tells that most of Europe was populated by individuals from Central Asia between 30,000 and 40,000 years ago, as well as individuals from the Middle East that made their way to Europe 25,000 years ago. Individuals from these two migrations account for about 80% of contemporary Y-chromosomes.

There was another migration wave that took place between 7,000 and 3,000 years ago from the Middle East. The more recent wave was on the heels of the development of agriculture, and accounts for approximately 20% of European men living today.