MIT Professor and Whitehead Institute Director David Page appeared last week on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report to dispute a recently prevailing theory that the human Y chromosome is headed for extinction.
Page, who research was published in a February issue of Nature, gave host Stephen Colbert a synopsis of the Y chromosome’s history. Using adjustable rubber tubing and a fabric-covered hair elastic as a visual aid, he attempted to explain the 300 million year evolution of human chromosomes to a comically skeptical Colbert.
From The Colbert Report:
Page: It turns out that, 300 million years ago when we were reptiles, we actually existed as males and females, but we didn’t have sex chromosomes. Whether we developed as a male or a female was determined by the temperature in which we incubated as an embryo.
Colbert: So, in the Garden of Eden, we were the snake?
The interview centered on Colbert’s main concern: whether or not the Y-chromosome would one day cease to exist. “I have heard for years that y chromosome is going away,” he said. “I heard that men would soon be obsolete and we would just be an all-lady planet.”
Page: We found that the rhesus monkey and the (human) Y chromosome carry the same genes…since all men and the rhesus are separated by 25 million years of evolution, it suggests that nothing much has happened to the Y chromosome in 25 million years.
Colbert: So we’re going to be OK! Alright!