This game is a highly simplified example of the reasoning and type of analysis
geneticists use to study Y-chromosome heredity. Geneticists look at many
different types of polymorphisms, or known regions of genetic variation, that
occur on the Y chromosome.
In this interactivity, we use sequences that are only 20 base pairs long and
show only one type of mutation known as a base substitution, in which one
letter is substituted for another. Geneticists typically look at many other
types of mutational differences, including insertions, deletions, duplications,
and tandem repeat sequences along different regions of the Y chromosome.
To compare multiple sequences that can be thousands of base pairs long,
researchers use computer software packages, called computer matching and
alignment systems, to measure the degree of similarity between chromosomes.
In order to be able to visually match differences between DNA sequences in this
game, we greatly exaggerate the mutational rate. Mutational rates along the Y
chromosome are exceedingly low, so the amount of DNA difference between father and son is
Although this game is a simplification, it provides a basic understanding of
how geneticists use the Y chromosome for male-line genetic research, and how
they can determine the relatedness of individuals and populations by looking at
polymorphic regions on the Y chromosome.