MIT Professor Defends Y Chromosome, Amuses Stephen Colbert

by Jay London on April 5, 2012

in Authors, Health, In the News, Research, Science

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!

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