Mitochondrial Eve - Common Misconceptions - Not The Most Recent Ancestor Shared By All Humans

Not The Most Recent Ancestor Shared By All Humans

Mitochondrial Eve is the most recent common matrilineal ancestor, not the most recent common ancestor (MRCA). Since the mtDNA is inherited maternally and recombination is either rare or absent, it is relatively easy to track the ancestry of the lineages back to a MRCA; however this MRCA is valid only when discussing mitochondrial DNA. An approximate sequence from newest to oldest can list various important points in the ancestry of modern human populations:

  • The Human MRCA. All humans alive today share a surprisingly recent common ancestor, perhaps even within the last 5,000 years, even for people born on different continents.
  • The Identical ancestors point. Just a few thousand years before the most recent single ancestor shared by all living humans was the time at which all humans who were then alive either left no descendants alive today or were common ancestors to all humans alive today. In other words, "each present-day human has exactly the same set of genealogical ancestors" alive at the "Identical ancestors point" in time. This is far more recent than Mitochondrial Eve.
  • "Y-chromosomal Adam", the most recent male-line common ancestor of all living men, was much more recent than Mitochondrial Eve, but is also likely to have been long before the Identical ancestors point.
  • Mitochondrial Eve, the most recent female-line common ancestor of all living people.

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