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200,000 years ago, two people did It. The rest is (our) history


A visitor views a digital representation of the human genome August 15, 2001 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Fifty Years ago James Watson and Francis Crick published an account of the DNA double helix in the science journal Nature. (Mario Tama / Getty Images)

Did Adam and Eve truly jump-start the human race?

Researchers at two universities suspect it may be so. By examining millions of mitochondrial genetic marker “bar codes,” they found evidence pointing to the possibility that all humans could have descended from one couple who did the deed between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago and spawning all the rest of us.

This also could apply to animals, wrote the researchers from Rockefeller University in New York City and Basel University in Switzerland, in a study published in the journal Human Evolution in June. The lead authors, Mark Stoeckle of Rockefeller University and David Thaler of the University of Basel, were studying mitochondria as a defining marker for delineating species.

“This conclusion is very surprising,” said co-author David Thaler of the University of Basel, according to the science news website Evolution News & Science Today. “I fought against it as hard as I could.”

Their research also opened the possibility that a catastrophic event might have nearly wiped out all of Earth’s species—or that most of the planet’s species came into being at roughly the same time.

What they did find for certain “is that the most recent common ancestor of those species seems to have lived during that time period,” Evolution News noted. “Either way, if the paper is right, it would be a shock to established scientific expectations.”