Website Search

Flash Player may be required. Please install and enable Flash.

ID 15165

Mitochondrial Eve, Mark Stoneking

Interviewee: Mark Stoneking. Geneticist Mark Stoneking, one of the authors of a controversial 1987 paper on mtDNA, talks about our common female ancestor. (DNAi Location: Applications > Human origins > Gene genealogy > Tracing ancestries > Mitochondrial Eve)
When we look at mitochondrial DNA variation and we trace it back to a single common ancestor that it traces back to a single woman. And this is the, for better or for worse, it's become known as mitochondrial Eve. And the source of confusion comes about because people then automatically start to think in terms of Eve in the biblical sense and that everyone is derived from a single woman. And it's not that everyone is derived from a single woman, it's that all of our mitochondrial DNAs are derived from a single woman. The reason they are derived from a single woman is because all of life on this planet has a single common origin and is related to that single common origin by a process of descent. And that's also true for our DNA sequence, so that's true for any DNA sequence that one looks at, it isn't, not just mitochondrial DNA. But the fact that mitochondrial DNA is strictly maternally inherited so you got it from your mother who got it from her mother from her mother from her mother and so forth, means that as we go back through this process of descent tracing back to a single common origin to a single common ancestor that has to be a single woman who was living at some point in the past somewhere. That doesn't mean that woman didn't have other, was not a member of a population, she most certainly was; she had contemporaries, they had mitochondrial DNAs, they left descendants. But it's just by chance, some point in their line of descent, either they had no daughters or, either no offspring or no daughters. But either way their mitochondrial DNA types went extinct. Until eventually all the mitochondrial DNA types we see today only trace back to a single individual in that ancestral population.
mark stoneking,mitochondrial eve,mitochondrial dna,dna mitochondrial,dna variation,female ancestor,common ancestor,dna sequence,human origins,location applications,biblical sense,line of descent,dnas,single woman,interviewee,geneticist,contemporaries,ancestry,descendants,offspring
Creative Commons License This work by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Related content:

15166. Constructing our family tree, Mark Stoneking
Geneticist Mark Stoneking speaks about the findings of early mitochondrial DNA studies.
15178. Mitochondrial DNA and the molecular clock, Douglas Wallace
Geneticist Douglas Wallace explains a method of mapping a population's history using the mutations accumulated by its members.
15154. Analyzing Neandertal DNA, Svante Paabo
Evolutionary geneticist Svante Paabo talks about his team's pioneering work with ancient Neandertal mtDNA.
16088. mtDNA tree all humans; Macaulay
Mitochondrial genome sequences humans populations modern MRCA most recent common ancestor ancestry relationships phylogenetic trees mtDNA Macaulay.
15610. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) human family tree
This illustration shows the two major mitochondrial DNA lineages. The lower branch includes only African populations. The upper branch has both African and non-African members.
15183. Support from Mitochondrial DNA, Douglas Wallace
Mitochondrial DNA research pioneer Douglas Wallace speaks about mitochondrial DNA and theories of human evolution.
15094. Complex story told by tracing genes back to common ancestors, Michael Hammer
Evolutionary geneticist Michael Hammer talks about the limitations of Y-chromosome research and the histories of different genes.
15418. Mitochondrial DNA, Matt Ridley
Matt Ridley talks about Mitochondrial DNA.
15164. Fossils and human origins, Mark Stoneking
Geneticist Mark Stoneking, co-author of an early mitochondrial DNA paper, talks about the competing theories of human origins.
16095. Chimp, Human, Neandertal HVR1
Variation between mtDNA (HVR1) samples from chimp, Neandertal and human.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
CSHL HomeAbout CSHLResearchEducationPublic EventsNewsstandPartner With UsGiving