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Index to Creationist Claims,  edited by Mark Isaak,    Copyright © 2004
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Claim CB621:

By analyzing the DNA of many different people, it is possible to learn the approximate date and location of their common ancestor. Scientists have done this with mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from diverse human populations. Since mtDNA is inherited only from the mother, this traces humanity back to a common "mitochondrial Eve." Scientists say she came from Africa about 200,000 years ago (Cann et al. 1987), but the age may be mistaken, and Asia and Europe have also been suggested as the location, consistent with an origin from near Mt. Ararat. Mitochondrial Eve is consistent with Biblical Eve.


Brown, Walt, 2001. Have new scientific and mathematical tools detected Adam and Eve? from In the Beginning.


  1. The "mitochondrial Eve," to which this claim refers, is the most recent common female ancestor, not the original female ancestor. There would have been other humans living earlier and at the same time. The mtDNA lineages of other women contemporary with her eventually died out. Mitochondrial Eve was merely the youngest common ancestor of all today's mtDNA. She may not even have been human.

  2. The same principles find that the most recent human male common ancestor ("Y-chromosome Adam") lived an estimated 84,000 years after the "mitochondrial Eve" and also came from Africa (Hawkes 2000; Underhill et al. 2000; Yuehai et al. 2001).

  3. The results assume negligible paternal inheritance of mitochondrial DNA, but that assumption has been called into question. Male mtDNA resides in the tail of the sperm; the tail usually does not enter the egg that the sperm fertilizes, but rarely a little bit does. It is also possible that there is some recombination of mtDNA between lineages, which would also affect the results (Awadalla et al. 1999; Eyre-Walker et al. 1999). But these challenges have themselves been questioned (Kivisild et al. 2000).


Kunchithapadam, Krishna, 1995, 2000. What, if anything, is a Mitochondrial Eve?


  1. Awadalla, P., A. Eyre-Walker and J. Maynard Smith, 1999. Linkage disequilibrium and recombination in hominid mitochondrial DNA. Science 286: 2524-2525.
  2. Cann, R. L., M. Stoneking and A. C. Wilson, 1987. Mitochondrial DNA and human evolution. Nature 325: 31-36. See also Wainscoat, Jim, 1987. Out of the garden of Eden. Nature 325: 13.
  3. Eyre-Walker, A., N. H. Smith and J. Maynard Smith, 1999. How clonal are human mitochondria? Proceedings of the Royal Society of London: B 266: 477-483.
  4. Hawkes, Nigel, 2000. Even early man was late for first date. Times (UK), 31 Oct. 2000,
  5. Kivisild, T. et al., 2000. Questioning evidence for recombination in human mitochondrial DNA. Science 288: 1931,
  6. Underhill, P. A. et al., 2000. Y chromosome sequence variation and the history of human populations. Nature Genetics 26(3): 358-361.
  7. Yuehai Ke et al., 2001. African origin of modern humans in East Asia: A tale of 12,000 Y chromosomes. Science 292: 1151-1153. See also Gibbons, A., 2001. Modern men trace ancestry to African migrants. Science 292: 1051-1052.

Further Reading:

Sykes, Bryan, 2001. The Seven Daughters of Eve. New York: Norton.

Dawkins, Richard, 1995. River out of Eden. New York: Basic Books.
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created 2001-2-18, modified 2004-2-25