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Scientists recover million-year-old mammoth DNA, oldest on record

CA, 18 Feb 2021
Scientists have recovered the oldest DNA on record, extracting it from the teeth of mammoths that roamed northeastern Siberia up to 1.2 million years ago in research that uncovered a new lineage and broadened the horizons for understanding extinct species.

The researchers said on Wednesday they had recovered and sequenced DNA from the remains of three individual mammoths - elephant cousins that were among the ancient mammals that dominated Ice Age landscapes - entombed in permafrost conditions conducive to the preservation of ancient genetic material, the parts discovered from the 1970s, but needed new scientific methods to extract the DNA.

"This DNA is incredibly old. It's a thousand times older than Viking remains and it even pre-dates the existence of modern humans and Neanderthals," said evolutionary geneticist Love Dalén of the Centre for Palaeogenetics in Sweden.

The oldest of the three specimens, the Krestovka mammoth, belonged to a previously unknown genetic lineage that more than 2 million years ago diverged from the lineage that led to the well-known woolly mammoth.

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