So far, scientists have announced that they have extracted two million-year-old DNA. This major discovery was made from Ice Age sediments in Greenland, opening a new chapter in paleogenetics.
A discovery that would revolutionize genetics. Scientists have announced Science journal Nature, discovered a hitherto unidentified extract of ancient DNA. Two million years old, it was discovered from Ice Age sediments in Greenland, opening a new chapter in paleogenetics.
“DNA can survive for 2 million years, twice as old as previously discovered DNA,” said Michael Winter Pedersen, one of the study’s lead authors.
A technical feat
Fewer than 41 fragments have been studied by scientists. Thanks to innovative technology, they were able to extract these fragments from a Siberian mammoth bone that are twice as old as previous records.
The method used “provides a fundamental understanding of why minerals or sediments can protect DNA… It’s a Pandora’s box we’re opening,” says Karina Sand, who led the geology group at the University of Copenhagen and participated in the study. .
The fragments are well-preserved because they are found frozen in small excavated surfaces, and with this discovery, for Mikkel Winter Pedersen, “we are breaking the barrier of what we have tried to achieve in terms of genetic studies”.
“One million years was long thought to be the limit for DNA survival, but today we’re doubling that. Obviously, this pushes us to look for sites,” he adds.
“Green Earth” and its unique environment
The work of scientists began in 2006, so that they were able to establish a “portrait” of the region two million years ago. However, in addition to the DNA fragments, the presence of the mastodon alone is notable because it has never been found this far north.
Different DNA fragments identified in the sediments come from the northern region. Greenland.
In fact, Cape Copenhagen is an arctic desert today. A wide variety of deposits have already been discovered there, including the best-preserved fossils of plants and insects. However, the researchers did not seek to establish the DNA of the discovered elements, and there was very little information about the possible existence of animals.
This unique environment makes scientists think about the adaptations of various species that rubbed shoulders at the time. Greenland, Danish for ‘Green Earth’, was 11 to 17°C warmer than today’s temperature, but at these latitudes the sun never sets in the summer months or rises in the winter.
“The discovery of Siberian mammoths makes us think about species plasticity: how species can actually adapt to a climate, to different types of climates, may be different than we thought before,” concluded Mikkel Winther Pederson.