Discussion of mitochondrial Eve in relation to Human Evolution at Secular Cafe

1 Oct

So what is big deal about Mitochondrial Eve? Why is it relevant to the consideration of human evolution from 2 million years ago until today expecially in South and East Asia?

Cath B at Secular Cafe replied: The study of mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) is an important tool in our quest to understand the routes and time-scales involved as the ancestors of modern humans colonised different parts of the planet as well as the extent to which this involved assimilation with and/or or replacement of earlier populations.

The knowledge we have gleaned and continue to glean, from mDNA and other studies provides convincing evidence that descendants of Mitochondrial Eve and associated contemporaries then living (current evidence suggests) in East Africa were the predominant or only ancestors of all people in all parts of the world living today.

I then asked concerning the human mitochondrial molecualar clock (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_mitochondrial_molecular_clock): I have no problem with accepting the use of the word ‘predominant’, but am not sure that mitochondrial Eve can be said to be the only ancestor of all people (male and female) living in all parts of the world today. I need genetic evidence to conclusively prove that this is the case. What does it say about the Han Chinese? In particular I am concerned that the descendents of the earlier migration of Homo erectus from Africa 1.5 million years ago from whom the recent hobbits (Homo floresiensis) arose in Indonesia are said to have all gone extinct. Also I do not know what the species name of mitochondrial Eve is supposed to have been: Homo ergaster, homo sapiens, homo erectus, H. rhodesiensis/H.heidelbergensis: if it was the latter how did it differ from the earlier species?

Also, I have concerns on the methodology of mitochondrial Eve. To be able to determine the natural mutation rates as you describe reliably, scientists would have had to examine the mtDNA of at least 10 generations of female human beings in a single family, and then replicate this kind of observations 20 times plus. Do you have a reference or a link/report on the results of such a study?

Also do you know if there is a published report on the derived mtDNA sequence of mitochondrial Eve?

Comment: I posted essentially the same questions at Secular Cafe as I had done at Talk Rational.org, but  posters/moderators here indicated that I should do my own homework instead: http://secularcafe.org/showthread.php?p=408011#post408011. I prefer to develop knowledge through interactional sharing of opinions. Accordingly, I would welcome any posts on the subject directly at this blogsite so that the analysis of the science of human evolution may be taken forward one step at a time in a way that ordinary people can comprehend the story and posters and commentators receive due credit for their contributions.

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