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Eve (in genetics)

Eve, in genetics, popular term for a theoretical female ancestor of all living people, also known as Mitochondrial Eve. In 1987 biochemist Allan C. Wilson proposed that all living human beings had inherited mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from a single woman. Using statistical and computer analysis of mtDNA—which is almost always inherited by a child from the mother—from people of various ethnic groups and assuming a slow, constant rate of genetic mutation, Wilson concluded that the oldest mtDNA was African and that every person's mtDNA stemmed from one woman who lived about 200,000 years ago. (He did not suggest that this woman was the only female ancestor alive 200,000 years ago.)

Critics questioned the appropriateness of the mtDNA samples used in the study and argued that computer analysis of the data was flawed and that Wilson's conclusions were not supported by the fossil record. A further study using more diverse mtDNA samples and supporting Wilson's theory was published in 1991, but other computer analyses of mtDNA samples have indicated that several different "family trees" can be constructed from the same data and that the order in which samples are analyzed by the computer program affects the results.

A 1995 study supported the idea that modern humans originate from a single source by identifying identical stretches of DNA on the Y chromosomes of a sample of men taken from different racial and geographical groups worldwide. This study looked at the zinc finger y, or ZFY, gene, a gene that is passed only from father to son, and concluded that humans evolved from a common ancestor (i.e., a small group) around 270,000 years ago. More recently, Spencer Wells, in The Journey of Man (2002), has argued that all men are descended from a single African man who lived 60,000 years ago. Some researchers have suggested that the most common male ancestor, or Y Chromosome Adam, lived from 50,000 to 150,000 years ago, while other scientists have argued for a more distant ancestry.

Those who argue against the Eve, or "out-of-Africa," hypothesis, are led by Dr. Milford Wolpoff and support an alternate hypothesis known as "regional continuity." It contends that human evolution was a much slower process (covering a million or more years) that occurred simultaneously in many areas of the Old World after the migration of Homo erectus, the species generally recognized as immediately preceding Homo sapiens, from Africa.

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Mitochondrial Eve

Mitochondrial Eve


Mitochondrial Eve is the name given to the hypothesis proposed in 1987 by Rebecca Cann and others that all humans are descended from one female who lived around two hundred thousand years ago in Africa. The claim was based on study of mitochondria, parts of the cell (containing genes) that exist outside the central nucleus and that are passed on only by females. It should be noted what is not being claimed, namely that all humans beings are descended from just one woman. Humans could all be descended from many, or just a few, or some from one group and some from another. It is just that all humans share at least one female ancestor, who may or may not have had just one mate. The hypothesis is generally accepted as true although there are questions about the accuracy of the dating. In this respect, future research might demand substantial revision at some later point.


See also Evolution, Human



Bibliography

loewe, l., and scherer, s. "mitochondrial eve: the plot thickens." trends in ecology and evolution 12, no. 11 (1997): 422423.


michael ruse

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mitochondrial Eve

mitochondrial Eve The hypothetical female claimed by some biologists to be the ancestor of all humankind. Analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from groups of people throughout the world suggests that mitochondrial Eve lived around 200 000 years ago, probably in Africa (hence she is also known as ‘African Eve’). Mitochondrial DNA is particularly useful for investigating recent genetic history as it mutates quickly (ten times more rapidly than nuclear DNA) and in humans is inherited solely through the female line (therefore it does not undergo recombination by crossing over). The uniformity of the different samples of mtDNA indicates that modern humans evolved relatively recently from a single region in Africa. This view has been reinforced by studies of Y chromosomes from different groups around the world, which are transmitted only through the male line.

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mitochondrial Eve

mitochondrial Eve The postulated female ancestor of all modern humans, who was an archaic human living in Africa about 140 000 to 280 000 years ago, based on studies of mitochondrial-DNA from modern populations by a team led by Allan Wilson. The data suggest there may have been a bottleneck associated with the speciation event leading to Homo sapiens sapiens. See also ADAM.

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