Mitochondria are intracellular organelles that contain their own DNA. Mitochondrial DNA mutates at a rapid rate and scientists often use it to study evolutionary relationships. Another feature that makes studying the mitochondrial genome interesting is that the mitochondrial DNA in most multicellular organisms passes from the mother during the fertilization process. For this reason, scientists often use mitochondrial genomics to trace genealogy.
Experts have used information and clues from DNA samples at crime scenes as evidence in court cases, and they have used genetic markers in forensic analysis. Genomic analysis has also become useful in this field. The first publication showcasing the first use of genomics in forensics came out in 2001. It was a collaborative attempt between academic research institutions and the FBI to solve the mysterious cases of anthrax communicated via the US Postal Service. Using microbial genomics, researchers determined that the culprit used a specific anthrax strain in all the mailings.