Scientists have extracted so-called environmental DNA (environmental, that is, eDNA) from soil samples of substances that organisms secrete into their environment, such as their hair, excrement or decomposing corpses. Studying ancient DNA can be very challenging because over time the genetic material breaks down, leaving only tiny fragments for scientists.
Eske Willerslev, a geneticist at the University of Cambridge, said:
However, with the help of the latest technology, it has been possible to extract genetic information from small, damaged DNA fragments.
The nature In their study, published in the latest issue of the scientific journal, the scientists compared the genetic material of the ancient fragments with the DNA of different species in order to find similarities. The samples come from deposits of the Cape Copenhaven rock formation in Peaey Land, the northernmost tip of Greenland, MTI reported.
The area is today the arctic desert, but millions of years ago severe climate change It happened in the area, the temperature rose significantly, – said the prof.
The cold environment helped preserve the small fragments of RNA
The sediments likely accumulated over several tens of thousands of years, until the climate cooled and turned into permafrost. The cold environment preserved tiny fragments of eDNA until scientists began excavating samples in 2006.
During the warm period, when the region’s average temperature was 11-19°C higher than it is today, it was inhabited by an extraordinary variety of flora and fauna. According to DNA fragments, arctic plants – birch and willow – coexist with pines and cedars, which prefer a warmer climate.
Traces of geese, rabbits, reindeer, and lemmings were also found in the samples.
Until now, the only signs of animal life in the area were the remains of dung beetles and rabbits. It was quite a surprise that your long extinct animal your DNA It is also found. Many of the ancient mammal fossils, which look like a cross between a mammoth and an elephant, were found in the temperate forests of North America, “which is an ocean away and as far south,” Willerslev explained.
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