Tracing maternal and paternal lineages independently to explore breeding systems and dispersal strategies in natural populations has been high on the wish-list of evolutionary biologists. As males are the heterogametic sex in mammals, such sex-specific patterns can be indirectly observed when Y chromosome polymorphism is combined with mitochondrial sequence information. Over the past decade, Y-chromosomal markers applied to human populations
have revealed remarkable differences in the demographic history and behaviour between the sexes. However, with a few exceptions, genetic data tracing the paternal line are
lacking in most other mammalian species. This deficit can be attributed to the difficulty of developing Y-specific genetic markers in non-model organisms and the general low levels of polymorphisms observed on the Y chromosome. Here, we present an overview of the currently employed strategies for developing paternal markers in mammals. Moreover, we
review the practical feasibility and requirements of various methodological strategies and highlight their future prospects when combined with new molecular techniques such as next generation sequencing.