Human Evolution

, 6:263

Paradise lost: Mitochondrial eve refuted

  • M. Pickford


Being based solely on neontological data, all «unique parent» evolutionary hypotheses, of which «Mitochondrial Eve» is one, fall into the category ofscala naturae. Mathematical treatment of neontological data bases, using cladistic approaches does not confer the status of scientific hypotheses onto such scenarios. Apart from these fundamental problems, such hypotheses are flawed on a number of other bases, including the fact that there is a proportion of parental contribution to mitochondrial lineages, despite widely publicised statements that mithocondrial DNA in mammals is «strictly» maternally inherited. Other weaknesses of «unique mother» hypotheses on that their proponents endeavour to describe the evolution of diploid organisms on the basis of variability in extant haploid organelles, the evolution of which is delinked from that of the diploid organism. A further difficulty is that it is not possible to reconstruct interspecific relationships on the basis of intraspecific variability. There is a general ignorance among proponents of «unique mother» hypotheses regarding the distribution of biological variability on the surface of the globe, a fact which renders the molecular clock inaccurate, and which upsets the simplistic proposal that molecular diversity equates with time. «Unique mother» scenarios are also invalidated by the presence of shared chromosome and other polymorphisms in african great apes and humans at similar percentages in the different lineages, a fact which indicates that these evolving populations did not experience «bottlenecks». These and other difficulties effectively refute the «Mitochondrial Eve» hypothesis, which in any case much resembles creationism of a special kind, in which the offspring of a breeding pair are visualised as belonging to a species different from its parents. Such extreme examples of the punctuational mode of evolution are highly likely to be incorrect.

Key words

«Unique mother hypotheses» Mitochondrial DNA Human evolution bottlenecks biological variability polymorphisms 

Copyright information

© Editrice Il Sedicesimo 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Pickford
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut de PaléontologieParisFrance

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