DNA from fossils: the past and the future
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The recovery of DNA from archaeological and palaeontological remains has intrigued scientists for many years. The DNA molecule is a relatively weak molecule compared with other biomacromolecules in tissues, but the sequence of its bases holds insights into questions that cannot be resolved by standard palaeontological methods. Recent advances in the field, such as the recovery of DNA sequences from coprolites found in the southwestern USA, as well as from the Neanderthal-type specimen, have shed new light on populations that are now extinct. A better understanding of how DNA is preserved in fossils, as well as the use of novel agents that can release the DNA from archaeological and palaeontological materials, will likely lead to new successes in the field. The analysis of ancient DNA may provide new clues about human evolution and answer questions, for example, relating to the diversity of the Neanderthals and the mammoths.
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