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Still Waters

Ancient bear DNA sequenced from old cave dirt in historic first for science

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Still Waters

For the first time, scientists have sequenced ancient DNA from soil samples - and it's all thanks to the Upper Paleolithic bears that prolifically used the cave as their toilet around 16,000 years ago.

The scientists describe their work as "the Moon landing of genomics", as the breakthrough means fossilized remains are no longer the only way of obtaining ancient DNA. Further, it shows ancient DNA can now be studied in the context of populations, rather than scattered, fragmentary individuals.

Chiquihuite Cave, where the samples were obtained, is well known as a site of historical significance. Many stone tools and fragments, dating back to between 25,000 and 30,000 years ago, show a period of human occupation – but humans weren't the only ones who made use of the cave.



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