New life for old bones

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Science  24 Jul 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6246, pp. 358-361
DOI: 10.1126/science.349.6246.358

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Powered by advances in sequencing technology, the field of ancient DNA has succeeded beyond all expectations, helping researchers to retrieve the entire genomes of Neandertals and other kinds of ancient humans and transforming the picture of human evolution. Researchers have also delved into the genomes of ancient animals—the oldest so far is a 700,000-year-old horse. For years, the methods of extracting and analyzing degraded DNA molecules were so tricky that they remained the exotic province of a few high-profile labs. But now the techniques are spreading. As researchers from many fields realize just how much ancient DNA can tell them, the method is being applied to everything from the peopling of Europe to how plants and pathogens respond to climate change. The explosion of research is transforming the study of the past.

  • * With reporting from Ann Gibbons, Elizabeth Pennisi, and Gretchen Vogel in Jena, Germany

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