The world’s oldest DNA has been sequenced from million-year-old mammoths.
Scientists sequenced DNA from mammoth teeth discovered in Siberia in the 1970s. It was the teeth of mammoths buried in the Siberian permafrost more than a million years ago that yielded the oldest DNA ever sequenced, shedding light on the genetic past of mammalian species.
Scientists say the three tooth samples provide important insights into giant mammals of the Ice Age, including the ancient legacy of the woolly mammoth. The newly obtained genomes are far superior to the previously sequenced DNA of the ancient horse, which was 780,000 to 560,000 years old.
“This DNA is incredibly old. The samples are a thousand times older than Viking remains and even predate the existence of humans and Neanderthals,” said Love Dalén, professor of evolutionary genetics at the Center for Paleogenetics in Stockholm and senior author of the study, published in the journal Nature.
As it turned out, the oldest mammoth of the three represented a previously unknown genetic lineage that the researchers estimated was different from other mammoths and was the ancestor of those that colonized North America.