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Mitochondrial Eve

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In the field of human genetics, Mitochondrial Eve refers to the most recent common matrilineal ancestor from whom all living humans are descended. Passed down from mother to offspring, all mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in every living person is directly descended from hers. Mitochondrial Eve is the female counterpart of Y-chromosomal Adam, the patrilineal most recent common ancestor.

The date when Mitochondrial Eve lived is estimated by determining the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of a sample of mtDNA lineages from living populations.

One of the misconceptions of mitochondrial Eve is that since all women alive today descended in a direct unbroken female line from her that she was the only woman alive at the time. However nuclear DNA studies indicate that the size of the ancient human population never dropped below some tens of thousands. There were many other women around at Eve's time with descendants alive today, but somewhere in all their lines of descent there is at least one man (and men do not pass on their mothers' mitochondrial DNA to their children). By contrast, Eve's lines of descent to each person alive today includes at least one line of descent to each person which is purely matrilineal.

Popular science

Newsweek Magazine reported on Mitochondrial Eve based on the Cann et al. study in January 1988, in an article entitled "The search for Adam and Eve: Scientists explore a controversial theory about Man's origins".[1] The edition sold a record number of copies.[2]

The Seven Daughters of Eve, a book by Brian Sykes, presents the theory of human mitochondrial genetics to a general audience.

In River Out of Eden, Richard Dawkins discusses human ancestry in the context of a river of genes and shows that Mitochondrial Eve is one of the many common ancestors we can trace back to via different gene pathways.

The Discovery Channel produced a documentary entitled The Real Eve (or Where We Came From in the United Kingdom), based on the book Out of Eden by Stephen Oppenheimer.


  1. Tierney J. The search for Adam and Eve: Scientists explore a controversial theory about Man's origins. Newsweek 111 (Jan. 11, 1988): 46-52.
  2. Stephen Oppenheimer. The Real Eve: Modern Man's Journey Out of Africa. Carroll & Graf, New York, NY, 2004.

External links

See also

GNU head This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation Licence. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Mitochondrial Eve".