An efficient approach to estimate model parameters from residual gravity data based on differential evolution (DE), a stochastic vector-based metaheuristic algorithm, has been presented. We have showed the applicability and effectiveness of this algorithm on both synthetic and field anomalies. According to our knowledge, this is a first attempt of applying DE for the parameter estimations of residual gravity anomalies due to isolated causative sources embedded in the subsurface. The model parameters dealt with here are the amplitude coefficient (A), the depth and exact origin of causative source (zo and xo, respectively) and the shape factors (q and 17). The error energy maps generated for some parameter pairs have successfully revealed the nature of the parameter estimation problem under consideration. Noise-free and noisy synthetic single gravity anomalies have been evaluated with success via DE/best/1/bin, which is a widely used strategy in DE. Additionally some complicated gravity anomalies caused by inultiple source bodies have been considered, and the results obtained have showed the efficiency of the algorithm. Then using the strategy applied in synthetic examples some field anomalies observed for various mineral explorations such as a chromite deposit (Camaguey district, Cuba), a manganese deposit (Nagpur, India) and a base metal sulphide deposit (Quebec, Canada) have been considered to estimate the model parameters of the ore bodies. Applications have exhibited that the obtained results such as the depths and shapes of the ore bodies are quite consistent with those published in the literature. Uncertainty in the solutions obtained from DE algorithm has been also investigated by Metropolis-Hastings (M-H) sampling algorithm based on simulated annealing without cooling schedule. Based on the resulting histogram reconstructions of both synthetic and field data examples the algorithm has provided reliable parameter estimations being within the sampling limits of M-H sampler. Although it is not a common inversion technique in geophysics, it can be stated that DE algorithm is worth to get more interest for parameter estimations from potential field data in geophysics considering its good accuracy, less computational cost (in the present problem) and the fact that a well-constructed initial guess is not required to reach the global minimum. (C) 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.