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A 2-million-year-old ecosystem in Greenland uncovered by environmental DNA


Mario Dantas
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It's definitive guys, there were elephants roaming freely in northern Greenland, during the Pleistocene. How was this possible, one might ask, Greenland being the closest to the north pole is certainly one of the most freezing places in the world...

Plato referred to elephants in Critias:

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There was an abundance of wood for carpenter's work, and sufficient maintenance for tame and wild animals. Moreover, there were a great number of elephants in the island; for as there was provision for all other sorts of animals, both for those which live in lakes and marshes and rivers, and also for those which live in mountains and on plains, so there was for the animal which is the largest and most voracious of all.

http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/critias.html

An artist's reconstruction of what the Kap København Formation in northern Greenland might have looked like 2 million years ago.

https://edition.cnn.com/2022/12/07/world/oldest-dna-sequence-discovered-greenland-scn/index.html

 

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A 2-million-year-old ecosystem in Greenland uncovered by environmental DNA

Nature volume 612pages 283–291 (2022)Cite this article

Abstract
 

Late Pliocene and Early Pleistocene epochs 3.6 to 0.8 million years ago1 had climates resembling those forecasted under future warming2. Palaeoclimatic records show strong polar amplification with mean annual temperatures of 11–19 °C above contemporary values3,4. The biological communities inhabiting the Arctic during this time remain poorly known because fossils are rare5. Here we report an ancient environmental DNA6 (eDNA) record describing the rich plant and animal assemblages of the Kap København Formation in North Greenland, dated to around two million years ago. The record shows an open boreal forest ecosystem with mixed vegetation of poplar, birch and thuja trees, as well as a variety of Arctic and boreal shrubs and herbs, many of which had not previously been detected at the site from macrofossil and pollen records. The DNA record confirms the presence of hare and mitochondrial DNA from animals including mastodons, reindeer, rodents and geese, all ancestral to their present-day and late Pleistocene relatives. The presence of marine species including horseshoe crab and green algae support a warmer climate than today. The reconstructed ecosystem has no modern analogue. The survival of such ancient eDNA probably relates to its binding to mineral surfaces. Our findings open new areas of genetic research, demonstrating that it is possible to track the ecology and evolution of biological communities from two million years ago using ancient eDNA.

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Mammut americanum

We confirmed the phylogenetic placement of our sequence using a selection of Elephantidae mitochondrial reference sequences,

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Of note, the detection of both Rangifer (reindeer and caribou) and Mammut (mastodon) forces a revision of earlier palaeoenvironmental reconstructions based on the site’s relatively impoverished faunal record, entailing both higher productivity and habitat diversity for much of the deposition period.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-022-05453-y

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“The first thing that blew our mind when we’re looking at this data is obviously this mastodon and the presence of it that far north, which is quite far north of what we knew as its natural range"

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The mix of temperate and Arctic trees and animals suggested a previously unknown type of ecosystem that has no modern equivalent

 
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A core of ice age sediment from northern Greenland has yielded the world’s oldest sequences of DNA.

The 2 million-year-old DNA samples revealed the now largely lifeless polar region was once home to rich plant and animal life — including elephant-like mammals known as mastodons, reindeer, hares, lemmings, geese, birch trees and poplars

https://edition.cnn.com/2022/12/07/world/oldest-dna-sequence-discovered-greenland-scn/index.html

 

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Sorry but this has been posted already.

 

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