(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists at the University of Copenhagen (Denmark) have identified two million years old DNA for the first time.
Fragments of genetic material found in sediments in the north of Greenland turned out to be a million years older than DNA taken from the bones of a Siberian mammoth and holding the previous record.
Ancient DNA samples have been isolated from sedimentary deposits of the Cap Copenhagen Formation in North Greenland, dated to about two million years ago.
At this time, the climate of the polar regions was quite warm with average temperatures 11-19 degrees Celsius higher than today’s values, which is similar to predicted climate change due to global warming.
However, the biological communities inhabiting the Arctic at this time remain poorly understood due to the rarity of fossils.
Analysis of the genetic material showed that it contains the DNA of hares, reindeer, rodents and geese, which are the ancestors of their modern and Late Pleistocene relatives.
The presence of marine species, including horseshoe crabs and green algae, confirms that the climate was warmer then than today.
In general, the boreal regions were occupied by an extensive forest ecosystem with mixed vegetation, including poplars, birches and arborvitae, as well as arctic and boreal shrubs and grasses.
The results indicate that polar ecosystems were much more productive than previously thought, requiring revision of previous reconstructions based on scarce animal fossils.
At the same time, the ecosystem reconstructed in the new study has no modern analogue, since no known plant community includes a number of taxa represented in many macrofossil and DNA samples from Cap Copenhagen.
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