Paleontology, the study of fossils enables us to understand the past and this understanding permits us to make intelligent guesses on where a species is headed. We study the patterns in the evolution of a certain species and these patterns enable us to predict the evolution path that the species undertakes.
Fossils Are Not Adequate Sources Of Knowledge
However, fossils don’t provide adequate information about the past. Fossils can only provide us with the information of the body structure and the rest is left to the scientists to assume. On the other hand, if we are able to study the DNA of any organism we can acquire feasible information about its evolution and pinpoint its position on the geological clock.
Recovery Of The Oldest DNA
Recently, scientists are able to recover DNA from the molars of a 1.2 million old fossil of a mammoth. This mammoth roamed the areas of Northeastern Siberia. A mammoth is like a big brother to the elephant which lived during the Ice-Age. The cold climate at the time of the Ice-Age helped preserve the mammoth’s DNA. “This is by a wide margin the oldest DNA ever recovered,” said evolutionary geneticist Love Dalén of the Centre for Palaeogenetics in Sweden. Dalén led the research published in the journal Nature.
Specifications Of The Discovery
Three remains of the giant were discovered in the 1970s. The fossils were found in a frozen state. Scientists at the time were not capable of extracting the DNA and hence it took us time to obtain the same. The DNA was preserved to a great extent. Out of the three mammoth fossils recovered the youngest was around 700,000 years old. The oldest one was 1.2 to 1.65 million years old. The third mammoth was around 1 million years old. The oldest mammal was discovered near the Krestovka river in Siberia. The second oldest mammal was near the Adycha river. The mammal near the Chukochuya river was the youngest of the three.
Deduction From The Attained Knowledge
From a comparison to the DNA of the most recent mammoth, we are able to say that the last mammoth dies 4,000 years ago. We also learned about the migration and the development of the mammoths. Researchers also found proof of interbreeding between the DNAs of the found mammoths. Even if we are still not able to trace the whole evolution journey of a mammoth. At least we are able to confirm that the mammoths were as we know them even a million years ago.
Prior DNAs Recovered
The DNA that was recovered from the leg bone of a horse, was the oldest one prior to this. This horse lived in Canada’s Yukon territory. The estimated age of this DNA is 560,000 to 780,000 years old. In comparison, homo sapiens are on Earth for only 300,000 years.
Advancements In The Study
Scientists are taking strides towards the study of DNA for ancient animals. However, we are still unable to attain the dinosaur DNA as the latest fossil that we have is 92 million years old. This time frame is way out of our current capabilities. But, we can harvest DNA that is 3 million years old. This limitation because the climate before 3 million years would have been too warm for the preservation of DNA.
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