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Can Human Evolution Be Traced Through Mitochondria Essay

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Wagner College |
Can Human Evolution Be Traced Through Mitochondrial DNA? |
BI 125H- Genes to Genomics |
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Paul J. Barchitta |
4/12/2012 |

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Abstract
Every cell contains thousands of mitochondria, and within each mitochondrion we can find DNA which helps us understand and track their bacterial history. Due to the unique properties of mitochondrial DNA, which include its high copy number, maternal inheritance, lack of recombination, and high mutation rate, have made mitochondrial DNA the molecule of choice for studying human history and evolution. In this research paper, you will find an in depth examination of mitochondrial DNA and its correlation to human history. You will explore the biological set up of mitochondria in general, and how its unique characteristics make it viable for tracing human ancestry, as well as some issues with using mitochondrial DNA.

Introduction
In the field of human genetics, mitochondrial DNA plays a major role in understanding and assessing genetic relationships of individuals or groups within a species and also for identifying and quantifying the evolutionary relationships between different species. As we take an in depth look in understanding how the mitochondrion works, we will discover why and how it is possible for human evolution to be traced through mitochondrial DNA. Before we get started with mitochondrial DNA in particular, we must first understand what exactly the mitochondria are and how it correlates to evolution.
Mitochondria can be described as the power plant for cells and are responsible for creating the specific molecule adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, through respiration and to regulate cellular metabolism. The ATP is produced in the mitochondria using energy stored in food. This process is somewhat similar to how the chloroplasts in plants act as sugar factories, the mitochondria in animals and plants act to produce the ordered ATP molecules as the energy supply for the...

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