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Woolly-mammoth gene study changes extinction theory
Date:6/11/2008

ar and that revealed ancient DNA survives much better in hair than in any other tissue investigated so far. This discovery makes hair, when it is available, a more powerful and efficient source of DNA for studying the genome sequences of extinct animals. Moreover, mammoth hair is found in copious quantities in cold environments and it is not regarded as fossil material of enormous value like bone or muscle, which also carries anatomical information.

"We also discovered that the DNA in hair shafts is remarkably enriched for mitochondrial DNA, the special type of DNA frequently used to measure the genetic diversity of a population," Miller said. The team's earlier study also showed that hair is superior for use in molecular-genetic analysis because it is much easier than bone to decontaminate. Not only is hair easily cleaned of external contamination such as bacteria and fungi, its structure also protects it from degradation, preventing internal penetration by microorganisms in the environment.

An important aspect of the new study is that the hair samples it used had been stored in various museums for many years before being analyzed by the researchers, yet the scientists were able to obtain lots of useful DNA from them. "One of our samples originates from the famous Adams mammoth, which was found in 1799 and has been stored at room temperatures for the last 200 years," Schuster said. This research technique opens the door for future projects to target interesting specimens that were collected a long time ago and are no longer available from modern species, the scientists said. Even the molecular analysis of entire collections seems now possible, an effort that the team calls "Museomics."

"We plan to continue using our techniques to untangle the secrets of populations that lived long ago and to learn what it might have taken for them to survive," Schuster said. "Many of us also have a personal interest in learning as much as we can a
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Contact: Barbara K. Kennedy
science@psu.edu
814-863-4682
Penn State
Source:Eurekalert  

Page: 1 2 3 4

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