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What's in a surname? New study explores what the evolution of names reveals about China
Date:4/13/2012

What can surnames tell us about the culture, genetics and history of our society? That is the question being answered by Chinese researchers who have traced the evolution of surnames across China.The research, published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, reveals how surnames can act as a genetic stamp, allowing scientists to trace lineage and understand the migrations and historical events which shaped modern China.

The research was led by Dr. Jaiwei Chen, from Beijing Normal University, and Professor Yida Yuan fromthe Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"When it comes to surnames the Chinese people are unique. 1.28 billion people share 7,327surnames. In fact the 100 most common names account for 85% of the population," said Dr Chen. "This means Chinese surnames include more cultural and genetic information than in most other countries."

Dr Chen and the team analysed data from China's National Citizen Identity Information, usingisonymy theory which provides a method of exploring population structure by studying the distribution of surnames. This included measuring Genetic distance, the genetic divergence between populations within a species."

"Surnames are inherited through the male line which means they can be considered markers for the Y chromosome genes," said Dr. Chen. "This means a study of surname distribution can help us understand genetic structures and historical social behavior, such as the role of migrations."

The team focused on the impact of migration and drift on the evolution of China's population structure. In Western European countries drift is the main effect as the majority of the population has been settled for a long time. However, in the United States immigration has had a far greater impact, particularly with the influx of people during the 19th and 20th centuries.

China stands unique from both models with a 4,000-year history of recorded surnames stretching back to th
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Contact: Ben Norman
Lifesciencenews@wiley.com
44-012-437-70375
Wiley-Blackwell
Source:Eurekalert

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