Mitochondrial DNA as a marker of molecular diversity: a reappraisal

Mol Ecol. 2009 Nov;18(22):4541-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2009.04380.x. Epub 2009 Oct 9.


Over the last three decades, mitochondrial DNA has been the most popular marker of molecular diversity, for a combination of technical ease-of-use considerations, and supposed biological and evolutionary properties of clonality, near-neutrality and clock-like nature of its substitution rate. Reviewing recent literature on the subject, we argue that mitochondrial DNA is not always clonal, far from neutrally evolving and certainly not clock-like, questioning its relevance as a witness of recent species and population history. We critically evaluate the usage of mitochondrial DNA for species delineation and identification. Finally, we note the great potential of accumulating mtDNA data for evolutionary and functional analysis of the mitochondrial genome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genetic Markers
  • Genetic Speciation
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genetics, Population
  • Genome, Mitochondrial
  • Inheritance Patterns
  • Mutation
  • Selection, Genetic


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Genetic Markers