Comparisons between species reveal when and how SRY, the testis-determining gene, evolved. SRY is younger than the Y chromosome, and so was probably not the original mammal sex-determining gene that defined the Y. SRY is typical of genes on the Y chromosome. It arose from a gene on the proto-sex chromosome pair with a function (possibly brain-determination) in both sexes. It has been buffeted in evolution, and shows variation in copy number, structure and expression. And it is dispensable, having been lost at least twice independently in different rodent lineages. At the observed rate of attrition, the human Y chromosome will be gone in 5-10 million years. This could lead to the extinction of our species or to a burst of hominid speciation.