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Health

130,000 year old Mastodon DNA?

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanJuly 22, 2007 12:45 PM

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Science makes DNA breakthrough in the tooth of a mastodon:

...after finding DNA preserved in the fossilised tooth of a beast that died up to 130,000 years ago. ... Researchers were hoping its teeth might have preserved enough of the DNA for them to recover lengthy chunks of it, and this week they will publish research detailing how their hunch has paid off. The find has allowed them to reconstruct the entire sequence of the DNA found in the creature's mitochondria, the parts of cells concerned with energy production. It is thought to be the oldest DNA ever to have been recovered and decoded in this way.

The exciting: 130,000 years is pushing it really far. Elephants and their cousins are great, but of course it would real cool if we could push genetic retrieval techniques to snatch material from hominids of this vintage. After all, this is a period when anatomically modern humans were simply an African phenomenon (everywhere else they were "archaics"), but there were no behaviorally modern humans extant. The less exciting, well, it is mtDNA. OK for phylogenetics, perhaps, but not that informative otherwise and convenient mostly because of its abundance (cells have lots of mitochondria).

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