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Darwinian DetectivesRevealing the Natural History of Genes and Genomes$
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Norman A. Johnson

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195306750

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195306750.001.0001

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Finding Our Roots

Finding Our Roots

Did “Eve” Know “Adam”?

(p.89) 6 Finding Our Roots
Darwinian Detectives

Norman A. Johnson

Oxford University Press

Unlike most of our genes, mitochondrial DNA is transmitted solely by mothers; males are a dead-end for the mitochondria. Evolutionary biologists have determined that the most recent common ancestor of all mitochondrial genetic variants was a woman who lived in Africa about 200,000 years ago. That we can trace back all mitochondrial DNA back to a single female (the mitochondrial Eve) is not a surprise. In fact, it is a simple consequence of population genetics. The location in time and place of this common ancestor does inform us about human demography and evolution. However, genetic recombination coupled with evolutionary forces will cause different genes to vary in their evolutionary histories. The mitochondrial “Eve” did not know the common ancestor of Y chromosomes, “Adam”. In fact, it is likely that the Y-chromosome Adam lived tens of thousands of years after the mitochondrial Eve.

Keywords:   genetic recombination, human demography, mitochondrial DNA, mitochondrial Eve, common ancestor, Y chromosome Adam

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