Scientists Seek Dirt DNA: “Lunar Landing of Genomics”


  • Scientists have put together multiple entire ancestral genetic codes from soil sediment.
  • The secret is to use whole genomes as templates to reconstruct the ancient DNA.
  • Scientists now have a whole flood gate of new genetics openable.

    Scientists have made progress that they compare to the moon landing: sequencing a full ancient genome from soil samples.

    How does that equate to people touching the lunar surface? Well, the research team at the University of Copenhagen found the whole genetic code of an ancient bear species without obtaining it from fossils, marking the first time scientists have found genes outside the fossil record. And by collecting the DNA from the soil, these researchers collected a set of samples, instead of just the genome of a single sample.

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    The scientists found the ancient bear genetic material in the soil of Chiquihuite Cave in rural Mexico. Like the ancient Chauvet Cave in France, Chiquihuite contains some of the oldest human evidence in the world – but humans were not the only ones to use the caves.

    The ancestral bear DNA dates back about 16,000 years, and comes from an unpleasant but logical source: bear waste.

    “When an animal or human urinates or defecates, cells in the body are also excreted,” says geneticist Eske Willerslev. told ScienceAlert. “We have shown that hair, urine and feces all provide genetic material that, under the right conditions, can survive for much longer than 10,000 years.”

    From there, the researchers assembled the pieces of environmental DNA (eDNA). “Standard eDNA techniques allow species to be determined [without] macrofossils through a variety of environments including sediments, ice cores, lakes, rivers and oceans, “the scientists explain in their article, which appears in Current Biology.

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    So how did the team put together the bears ’genome from these rounds?

    “We evaluated mitochondrial phylogeny using whole mitogenomes of the eight existing bears of the Ursidae family and three extinct bear lineages: cave bears (U. spelaeus) and the two extinct tremarkine bears, the North American giant short-faced bear, Arctodus, and the South American giant short-faced bear, Arktoterio, which we reassembled using the Andean bear as a reference. “

    Basically the scientists put together the complete ancient genome using modern and extinct bears as templates – consider using a model of a prone dolphin as a guide to put together the body parts of an orc. The parts are not the same, but both animals have a dorsal fin and a breathing hole.

    Fossils are offered to scientists a huge a lot of information, but the fossil record is naturally natural, and it makes no sense to rely as something to fully inform us of daily activities and whole animals. For example, one full T. rex a sample, although spectacular, does not explain what the genetic information of the whole species was.

    Willerslev recounted ScienceAlert this research is “the landing of genomics” because it allows to study the genome without fossil findings – bringing with it a vast wealth of new genetic information that can be fully collected from soil and other sediments.

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