Human Evolution

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 117–124 | Cite as

Population size at the time of mitochondrial eve

  • Zimmerman S. 


This study takes a fresh but simple approach to a controversial subject. A computer simulation is used to investigate the relation between the age of our most recent mitochondrial DNA ancestor (often called “mitochondrial Eve”) and the number of her contemporaries. The simulation follows a female population through 16,000 generations, allowing it to fluctuate at random, although guided by a growth rate of .02% per generation. At each generation an account is kept of the number of viable female lineages, that is, the number of original females who retain at least one female descendent. Simple statistical methods are applied to the results of thousands of such runs, and a correspondence is suggested — in tabular, functional, and graphical form — between the various ages commonly proposed for “mitochondrial Eve” and the likely size of the population at these times. In addition, several specific assertions are made about maximum and minimum populations in the past hundreds of thousands of years. This simulation does not presume to solve the age problem, nor to remove it from the ultimate authority of genetic research. Rather it provides a different tool with which to investigate the matter.


Mithocondrial Eve Gene Lineages Simulation 


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Copyright information

© International Institute for the Study of Man 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zimmerman S. 
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. of MathematicsEvergreen Valley CollegeSan JoséUSA

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