EurekAlert writes that the recently found piece of DNA is 1 million years older than the previous record holder press release. Microscopic DNA fragments have been found in Pleistocene sediments in northern Greenland.
Ancient DNA has been used to map a two-million-year-old ecosystem that survived extreme climate change. The researchers hope that the findings will help predict the long-term environmental effects of current global warming.
The researchers found a total of 41 usable samples, and the analysis has been published in the journal Nature have been published.
The discovery of the DNA fragments is significant because genetic material degrades rapidly, but according to the researchers, these samples serve as evidence that, under the right conditions, remains of good quality can survive. Ancient DNA samples have been found in sediments accumulated over 20,000 years. These deposits eventually remained trapped in ice or permafrost, so they were undisturbed for about two million years.
Incomplete samples of a few millionths of a millimeter have been taken from the Copenhaven Formation. It is a sedimentary deposit about 100 meters thick, located in the Arctic Ocean at the northernmost point of Greenland. Greenland’s climate 2 million years ago was arctic to temperate and was 10-17°C warmer than it is today.
Scientists have found the presence of animals (reindeer, rabbits, lemmings), plants (birch trees and poplars), and microorganisms. It has been proven that ice age mammals called mastodons made it to Greenland. Previously, it was believed that these elephant-like animals stopped before Greenland and did not come here from the northern and central parts of America.
The search was truly international, as 40 scientists from Denmark, the UK, France, Sweden, Norway, the US and Germany came together to find the DNA samples. Some DNA fragments can be easily linked to the ancestors of today’s species, others can only be linked at the genus level to animals and plants still living today, and we have also been able to find DNA remains of species that are impossible to place in plants and animals known in the 21st century.
The fact that scientists are able to work from such small DNA samples is thanks to modern DNA sequencing technologies.