Science-exciting discovery – researchers have found traces of DNA millions of years old in mammoth teeth

From mammoth teeth from the Siberian permafrost, researchers have extracted the oldest traces of DNA that were ever available to science.

Woolly mammoth tusk emerges from the permafrost of Siberia (magazine “Nature”).

Photo: AFP / Love Dalin

From mammoth teeth from the Siberian permafrost, researchers have extracted the oldest traces of DNA that were ever available to science. “This DNA is incredibly old,” said Love Dalin of the Center for Paleogenomics in Stockholm. “The specimens are a thousand times older than remains of the Vikings and date back to prehuman and Neanderthals.” The results of the study were published on Wednesday in the latest issue of the journal “Nature”.

In total, there are three mega discoveries, one of which is around 800,000 years old and the other two over a million years old. This means they are behind the oldest DNA discoveries to date, which come from a horse and are 560,000 to 780,000 years old.

The mammoths examined now are, on the one hand, two steppe mammoths that lived more than a million years ago. The third mammoth is one of the oldest woolly-haired mammoths ever found.

Reconstruction of the steppe mammoth (Bulletin of the magazine

Reconstruction of the steppe mammoth (Bulletin of the magazine “Nature”).

Photo: Agence France Presse / Beth Zaiken / Center for Palaeogenetics

The earliest discovery of a mammoth can be dated to 1.65 million years ago

The researchers used small samples of DNA taken from the animals’ teeth. Dalen compared this to “a pinch of salt on your plate.” Researchers have successfully sequenced millions of base pairs from these tiny samples.

The oldest mammoth is called Krestovka and it can be 1.65 million years old. The second mammoth, Adycha, is 1.34 million years old, the youngest, Chukochya, 870,000 years old. However, Dalin has recorded that there is a lack of clarity in the dating of Kristofka’s DNA.

Permafrost releases more residues due to climate change

By comparing the genome to that of the African elephant, a modern relative of the mammoth, the researchers were able to reconstruct parts of the mammoth genome. The Krestovka genome indicates that it is a previously unknown genetic line. This could have branched off from the other mammoth two million years ago and leads to those mammoths that lived in North America.

In Siberia, ice age conditions and warm, humid periods followed. Dalin explained that permafrost is thawing due to climate change and is currently releasing more mammoth remains. He was optimistic that in the future, even older traces of DNA could be obtained from permafrost dating back 2.6 million years.

AFP / step

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