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mitochondrial Eve

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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 140 000 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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