An illustration of DNA. YAYIMAGES.

Oldest DNA in the world breaks record by a million years

Using cutting-edge technology, DNA extracts from Siberian mammoth bones were found to be a million years older than the previous record.


DNA dated at two million years old has been discovered for the first time, breaking the million-year record and marking a milestone in evolution’s history. The study found 41 usable samples hidden in clay and quartz containing microscopic fragments of environmental DNA extracted from ancient animals and plants living in northern Greenland during the Ice Age. Using cutting-edge technology, DNA extracts from Siberian mammoth bones were found to be a million years older than the previous record. Using ancient DNA, scientists have mapped an ecosystem that endured extreme climate change two million years ago. Hopefully, scientists will be able to predict how global warming will impact the environment in the long run.

Counting down to millimeters, the samples were taken from the Kobenhavn Formation, an almost 100-meter-thick sediment deposit in the Arctic Ocean at Greenland’s northernmost point. Climate back then was arctic to temperate, and Greenland had a 10° C to 17° C warmer climate than it does now.

Comparing DNA samples

In a shallow bay, sediment accumulated meter by a meter over time. Among the animals, plants, and microorganisms discovered were reindeer, hares, lemmings, birch, and poplar trees. According to researchers, Mastodons, an Ice Age mammal reached Greenland before going extinct. Before, these elephant-like creatures were believed to live only in North and Central America, not as far as Greenland. Every DNA sample was compared with a collection of DNA taken from living animals, plants, and microorganisms. During this process, a picture of the DNA of trees, shrubs, birds, animals, and microorganisms emerged. Ancestors of living species were easily identified in some of the DNA samples. However, genus-level relationships are only possible for some species. Many of these organisms came from species that would be impossible to locate in 21st-century DNA libraries. Read more about the discovery at the National History Museum.


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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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