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Proteins found in prehistoric ostrich eggs

By T.K. Randall
September 28, 2016 · Comment icon 5 comments

Prehistoric eggshell fragments can be found across Africa. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Dan Lundberg
Scientists have discovered the world's oldest genetic information within 3.8 million-year-old eggshells.
Up until now the oldest known genetic data had come from 700,000-year-old DNA samples frozen in sediment, but now researchers studying fossilized ostrich eggshells in Africa have come up with a way to extract protein fragments from them which are far older than anything ever seen before.

The researchers believe that the reason it is possible to do this is because protein sequences survive a lot longer when they are 'entrapped' by the surface minerals which make up the shells.

"The key thing here is that these have been preserved for 3.8 million years in a very hot environment," said study leader Professor Matthew Collins from the University of York.
"To date DNA analysis from frozen sediments has been able to reach back to about 700,000 years ago, but human evolution left most of its traces in Africa and the higher temperature there takes its toll on preservation."

The ability to obtain this genetic data from prehistoric bone and eggshell fragments potentially opens up a goldmine of new data about many different species throughout history.

It should also be possible to learn more about our own ancient primate ancestors.

"Recovery of a protein sequence tells us the function of the protein," said analytical chemist Dr Kirsty Penkman. "From that, we might be able to get evolutionary information."

Source: BBC News | Comments (5)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Parsec 6 years ago
  Well,  now we only have to find human fossilised eggs then!
Comment icon #2 Posted by Saru 6 years ago
The technique is also believed to work on fossil bones and teeth.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Parsec 6 years ago
Yeah, I know, but you spoiled the fun.   Thank you anyway for bringing the discussion on a less facetious level (and I'm not being sarcastic)!
Comment icon #4 Posted by jarjarbinks 6 years ago
I know a couple of brodude who would love a jurassic protein shake.
Comment icon #5 Posted by paperdyer 6 years ago
Is there enough DNA data to make a Dino-strich?

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