THE oldest ever animal DNA has been recovered, belonging to two mammoths more than one million years old.
An international team of researchers has recovered DNA from the molar teeth of three mammoths buried in the permafrost of northeastern Siberia, two of which lived more than a million years ago.
It is the oldest DNA ever sequenced, exceeding by hundreds of thousands of years the one that which held the record until now, belonging to a horse between 560,000 and 780,000 years old found in the Yukon (Canada) in 2013.
The finding, released in the journal ‘Nature’, has revealed a previously unknown lineage in the evolutionary history of these animals.
The scientists, led by the Centre for Paleogenetics in Stockholm (Sweden), analyzed the genomes of three mammoths 700,000 to 1.2 million years old from teeth excavated by Russian scientists in the 1970s from permafrost from Yakutia, in Siberia.
The age of the remains was determined with the help of geological data.
All three mammoths were named after the rivers near where they were found.
The 700,000-year-old specimen, baptized as Chukochya, is one of the earliest known woolly mammoths.
Adycha, 1.1 million years old, is an ancestor of his, while the oldest specimen, Krestovka, belonged to a previously unknown genetic lineage that separated from other Siberian mammoths more than two million years ago.
“This was the biggest surprise,” acknowledges Love Dalen, professor of evolutionary genetics and one of the lead authors of the study. Until now it was believed that there was only one species of mammoth in Siberia at that time, called the steppe mammoth.
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