DNA Evolution

NewsGuard 100/100 Score

DNA carries the genetic information of species and has been evolving over millions of years. Earlier studies of prehistoric and historical migrations of human populations were possible only by research on uncovered skeletal remains and fossils.

Over the last two or three decades anthropologists have developed a more powerful tool in the form of molecular biology. In evolution, proteins and certain molecules have been analyzed over years and decades but it was in the 80’s that these were first done more precisely to be of use.

Researchers after that have gained a better understanding of the DNA sequences. Assessment of these sequences gives an insight into the population or between populations.

DNA is the only biomolecule that has been constantly changing over millions of years and yet maintains a basic pattern that carries a record of life’s evolution on Earth. Genes carry a variety of sequences, amongst them some carrying important information, e.g., functional genes which encode for the proteins that form the building blocks of the body as well as several regulatory fragments that determine DNA reading in formation of enzymes, proteins and hormones.

Is “junk DNA” really junk?

DNA contains a vast amount of non-coding and non-functional sequences. These remain switched off and contain mutated genes or those inserted from other organisms, e.g., viruses and bacteria.

Much of these DNA that were not coding for any proteins were termed “junk DNA”. Now, in a series of papers published in September in Nature (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group) and elsewhere, the ENCODE group have found that there may be signals and switches present in this junk DNA. This has paved ways to discover human inheritance and disease over ages.

Mitochondrial DNA

The majority of the DNA is located within the cell nucleus. Minute amounts of genetic material, however, are present in a separate cellular organelle – the mitochondrion. This is called mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA.

mtDNa is the most useful tool in analyzing the evolution of a species. Different different population histories are being reflected in mtDNA lineages and nuclear gene frequencies or language changes.

DNA in nuclei compared to mitochondrial DNA

Since there are different inheritance patterns of both forms of DNA material, it is significant to note that while DNA within the nucleus comes from both parents, that in the cell cytoplasm or in the mitochondria comes from the mother.

It is noted that over ages there is a difference in migration and mobility between men and women. It is not clear, however, which of the sexes moved more frequently. However, it is seen that the male sex chromosome or the Y chromosome sequences is more geographically structured than the mitochondrial DNA suggesting the males tended to stay in one place while females and families resided in husband’s abode.

Studies also suggest that these mtDNA changes may have resulted from higher male than female migration rate in the period of Mesolithic recolonisation when Northern Europe became inhabitable again after the Ice Age. This suggests that female migration, more than male, may affect the structure of nuclear genes.

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jul 22, 2023

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Mandal, Ananya. (2023, July 22). DNA Evolution. News-Medical. Retrieved on May 25, 2024 from https://www.news-medical.net/life-sciences/DNA-Evolution.aspx.

  • MLA

    Mandal, Ananya. "DNA Evolution". News-Medical. 25 May 2024. <https://www.news-medical.net/life-sciences/DNA-Evolution.aspx>.

  • Chicago

    Mandal, Ananya. "DNA Evolution". News-Medical. https://www.news-medical.net/life-sciences/DNA-Evolution.aspx. (accessed May 25, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Mandal, Ananya. 2023. DNA Evolution. News-Medical, viewed 25 May 2024, https://www.news-medical.net/life-sciences/DNA-Evolution.aspx.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.

You might also like...
New approach to inhibit strep’s DNA-cleaving enzymes