Researchers reveal a richer picture of the past with new DNA recovery techniques


A shot of the Klondike region in the Yukon, where permafrost samples containing sedimentary DNA were collected. Sincerely: Tyler Murchie, McMaster University

Researchers at McMaster University have developed a new technique for manipulating ancient DNA from soil, drawing the genomes of hundreds of animals and thousands of plants – many of them long extinct – from sediments less than a gram.


DNA extraction method outlined in the journal Quarternary Research, Allows scientists to recreate the most advanced picture of the environment that existed thousands of years ago.

The researchers analyzed pumafrost samples from four sites in the Yukon, each representing different points in the Pleistocene – Halocene transition, which occurred about 11,000 years ago.

Researchers said the infection portrayed the extinction of a large number of animal species such as mammals, mastodons and ground sloths, and the new process has yielded some surprising new information about the events reported by researchers. They suggest, for example, that woolly mammoths lived longer than originally believed.

In samples from the Yukon, they found genetic remains of a vast array of animals, including mammoths, horses, bison, reindeer and thousands of varieties of plants, all with up to 0.2 grams of sediment.

Scientists determined that woolly mammoths and horses were still present in the Klondike region of the Yukon, as recently as 9,700 years ago, using fossil remains suggested thousands of years later than previous research.

Researchers reveal a richer picture of the past with new DNA recovery techniques

Tiller Murchi is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology and lead author of the study. Sincerely: Emil Karpinski, McMaster University

Evolutionary Hendrik Poiner, a lead author on the paper and director, says, “A few grams of soil contain DNA from vastly extinct animals and plants from another time and place, enabling a new kind of espionage.” McMaster Ancient DNA Center. “This research allows us to maximize DNA retention and recover our understanding of change through time, including climate events and human migration patterns without conserved activity.”

The technique is a longstanding problem for scientists, which must separate DNA from other substances mixed with sediment. This process usually requires rigorous treatments that destroy truly usable DNA. But using a new combination of extraction strategies, McMaster researchers have demonstrated that it is possible to preserve more DNA than ever before.

“All the DNA of those animals and plants is tied up in a small spatter of dirt,” Tyler Murchie, a Ph.D. Candidate in anthropology department and a leading author of studies.

“Organisms are continuously shedding cells throughout their lives. Humans, for example, shed about half a billion skin cells every day. This genetic material degrades very quickly, but a small fraction is sedimentary mineral-binding. Through and is preserved for millennia. We are awaiting our recovery and study. Now, we are from very small amounts of sediment, and in the total absence of any living biological tissue of environmental DNA. One can do some remarkable research by recovering a huge variety. ”


Mastodon made frequent trips north when climate change occurred


more information:
Tyler jay Murchi et al, Optimizing the extraction and targeted capture of ancient environmental DNA for reconstruction of past environments using archaic environment Arctic-1.0 bait-sets. Quaternary research (2020). DOI: 10.1017 / merit.2020.59

Provided by McMaster University

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