London, August 7 : A new study suggests that it is not certain that a rich and powerful father will definitely ensure a socially dominant status for his sons and grandsons through gene transfer.
Joseph Watkins, a mathematician at the University of Arizona in Tucson, joined forces with a team of anthropologists and geneticists to sift through the DNA of 1269 males from 41 Indonesian communities, to determine whether dominance could last more than a couple generations.
The researchers concentrated on stretches of the male-inherited Y chromosome that change little from generation to generation, and it allowed them to peer back more than 3000 years.
They say that their search paid no attention to genetic traits that might offer an evolutionary boost, and instead focused on "junk" DNA that flows exclusively from father to son.
Out of 41 communities, from Bali to Borneo to mainland Indonesia, only five were found to show evidence of long-term dominance by a few male lines.
Three of such communities were in Sumba, a remote island where males are polygamous, and clans vie for status and resources.
According to the researchers, the genetic patterns seen in males from the other two communities could be explained by an influx of foreign workers in one case, and a recently settled village in the other.
The researchers agree that Genghis Kahn proves that some powerful males can ensure their lineage.
They, however, add that such men rare.
"If I were to take 100 random Mongolians and follow their family lines, I wouldn't have seen anything special," New Scientist magazine quoted Watkins as saying.
Peter Underhill, a population geneticist at Stanford University, is also of the opinion that cultural traits that flow exclusively from father to son, like wealth and property, are unlikely to last.
"Evolution is an equal opportunity system. No single group is going to persist as the dominant group for very long before something changes," says Michael Hammer, a co-author of the study.
He insists that wars, climate change, and diseases have all sent dominant males careening off their pedestals.
The study has been reported in the journal PNAS.