DNA samples dating back 2 million years have revealed that the polar region, now largely devoid of life, was once home to many plants and animals – including mastodons, reindeer, rabbits, geese, birches and poplars, according to a new research published in the journal Nature.
The mix of trees and animals from the temperate and arctic zones suggested a previously unknown type of ecosystem that has no modern equivalent—one that could act as a genetic map for how different species might adapt to a climate warmer, the researchers found.
The discovery is the work of scientists in Denmark, who managed to detect and recover environmental DNA – the genetic material shed into the environment by all living organisms – in small amounts of sediment taken from the København Formation, located at the mouth of a fjord in the Ocean Arctic, at the northernmost point of Greenland, during a 2006 expedition.
They then compared the DNA fragments to existing DNA libraries collected from both extinct animals, plants and microorganisms, as well as living and extinct animals. The genetic material revealed dozens of other plants and creatures previously undetected at the site, based on what is known from fossils and pollen records.
“The first thing that struck us when we looked at this data was obviously this mastodon and its presence so far north, which is quite far from what we knew to be its natural range,” he said. said study co-author Mikkel Pedersen, assistant professor at the Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Center at the University of Copenhagen, during a press conference.
The discovery breaks the previous record for the world’s oldest DNA, set by research published last year on genetic material extracted from the tooth of a mammoth that roamed the Siberian steppe more than a million years ago, as well as the previous record for DNA in sediments.
Source: Jurnalul by jurnalul.ro.
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