Nonrecombining Y-chromosomal microsatellites (Y-STRs) are widely used to infer population histories, discover genealogical relationships, and identify males for criminal justice purposes. Although a key requirement for their application is reliable mutability knowledge, empirical data are only available for a small number of Y-STRs thus far. To rectify this, we analyzed a large number of 186 Y-STR markers in nearly 2000 DNA-confirmed father-son pairs, covering an overall number of 352,999 meiotic transfers. Following confirmation by DNA sequence analysis, the retrieved mutation data were modeled via a Bayesian approach, resulting in mutation rates from 3.78 x 10(-4) (95% credible interval [CI], 1.38 x 10(-5) - 2.02 x 10(-3)) to 7.44 x 10(-2) (95% Cl, 6.51 x 10(-2) - 9.09 x 10(-2)) per marker per generation. With the 924 mutations at 120 Y-STR markers, a nonsignificant excess of repeat losses versus gains (1.16:1), as well as a strong and significant excess of single-repeat versus multirepeat changes (25.23:1), was observed. Although the total repeat number influenced Y-STR locus mutability most strongly, repeat complexity, the length in base pairs of the repeated motif, and the father's age also contributed to Y-STR mutability. To exemplify how to practically utilize this knowledge, we analyzed the 13 most mutable Y-STRs in an independent sample set and empirically proved their suitability for distinguishing close and distantly related males. This finding is expected to revolutionize Y-chromosomal applications in forensic biology, from previous male lineage differentiation toward future male individual identification.