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Mitochondria and the Mob

An article in USA Today reports that new mitochondrial DNA testing techniques may help to identify the murderer of a number of Mob figures buried in swamps around the New York City metropolitan area.Mitochondria, the organelles in animal cells responsible…
February 22, 2005

An article in USA Today reports that new mitochondrial DNA testing techniques may help to identify the murderer of a number of Mob figures buried in swamps around the New York City metropolitan area.

Mitochondria, the organelles in animal cells responsible for respiration, carry their own DNA. The discovery of mitochondrial DNA was one of the triggers for the Endosymbiosis Hypothesis of cell evolution, which holds that eukaryotic cells, which have differentiated internal parts, evolved from an alliance of prokaryotes (such as bacteria), early in the history of life on earth.

Here’s the funny part: because mitochondria are inherited through the maternal line, m-DNA analysis is particularly good at identifying blood relatives. (Strike one for Cosa Nostra.) Also, mitochondria appear to be closely related to blue-green algae, which brings us back to the swamps mentioned earlier. (Oh, the irony!)

Who says evolution doesn’t have a sense of humor?

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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