Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Scientists Sequence DNA of Woolly Mammoth

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Scientists Sequence DNA of Woolly Mammoth

Article excerpt

A team of genome researchers at Penn State University and experts in ancient DNA at McMaster University has obtained the first genomic sequences from a woolly mammoth, a mammal that roamed grassy plains of the Northern Hemisphere until it became extinct about 10,000 years ago. The team's research on bones preserved in Siberian permafrost was published in Science. The project also involved paleontologists from the American Museum of Natural History and researchers from Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.

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"We demonstrated that 50% of the total DNA extracted from the bone was mammoth," says Stephan C. Schuster, associate professor at Penn

State's Center for Comparative Genomics and Bioinformatics. "This allowed us to compare hereditary information from the cell's nucelus of today's African elephants with the one from this ancient species."

The project became possible through the discovery of exceptionally well-preserved remains of a mammoth skeleton in the permafrost soil of northern Siberia, in combination with a novel sequencing technique that could cope with the heavily fragmented DNA retrieved from the organism's mandible, its jaw bone. "The bone material used in this study is approximately 28,000 years old, as was shown by beta carbon dating analysis," says Hendrik N. Poinar, associate professor of anthropology at McMaster University. "This was a surprising finding, as it demonstrated that the analyzed material was frozen for more than 10,000 years before the maximum of the last ice age. …

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