Macaulay, Vincent and Richards, Martin B. (2013) Mitochondrial Genome Sequences and Their Phylogeographic Interpretation. Encyclopaedia of LIfe Sciences eLS.

The strong phylogenetic signal provided by mitochondrial deoxyribonucleic acid (mtDNA) sequences within species is being exploited to reconstruct the maternal genealogy and anchor it in space and time. This is the starting point for interpretations of the processes in population history that led to those patterns, as illustrated here for humans. Mitochondrial phylogeography began by revolutionising our view of modern human origins, with the demonstration that modern humans dispersed from Africa approximately 60 000 years ago. Now benefitting from the high genealogical and chronological resolution afforded by whole‐mtDNA sequences, and despite the advent of genome‐wide analyses, mtDNA continues to illuminate prehistoric settlement and dispersal history. It has often led to challenges to received wisdom, such as the stress on pre‐Neolithic dispersals at the end of the Ice Age in many parts of the world, and the database of contemporary variation is currently being augmented by rapidly increasing information from ancient DNA.