Discovery of World’s Oldest DNA Breaks Record by One Million Years; Two-Million-Year-Old DNA Opens A ‘Game-Changing’ New Chapter In History of Evolution; Study May Reveal How to Attempt to Counteract Devastating Impact of Global Warming.”

Artistic reconstruction of Kap København formation two-million years ago in a time where the temperature was significantly warmer than northernmost Greenland today. (Credit: Beth Zaikenjpg).

Microscopic fragments of environmental DNA were found in Ice Age sediment in northern Greenland. Using cutting-edge technology, researchers discovered the fragments are one million years older than the previous record for DNA sampled from a Siberian mammoth bone. The ancient DNA has been used to map a two-million-year-old ecosystem which weathered extreme climate change. Researchers hope the results could help to predict the long-term environmental toll of today’s global warming. The discovery was made by a team of scientists led by Professor Eske Willerslev and Professor Kurt H. Kjær. Professor Willerslev is a Fellow of St John’s College, University of Cambridge, and Director of the Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Centre at the University of Copenhagen where Professor Kjær, a geology expert, is also based.  The results of the 41 usable samples found hidden in clay and quartz were published on December 7, 2022 in Nature. The open-access article is titled “A 2-Million-Year-Old Ecosystem in Greenland Uncovered By Environmental DNA.”

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