mitochondrial Eve

views updated May 18 2018

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.

Mitochondrial Eve

views updated May 29 2018

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


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

michael ruse

mitochondrial Eve

views updated May 08 2018

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.