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Articles on Ancient DNA

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The upokororo, or New Zealand grayling (Prototroctes oxyrhynchus) Te Papa CC BYNC-ND 4.0

From fertiliser to phantom: DNA cracks a century-old mystery about New Zealand’s only extinct freshwater fish

Historical accounts show the upokororo was once common in rivers across the country. It’s now officially extinct, but is there a chance survivors could still be found in remote waterways?
Artist’s impression of an eastern moa in its podocarp forest habitat. Paul Martinson. Te Papa Tongarewa/Museum of NZ

How did ancient moa survive the ice age – and what can they teach us about modern climate change?

DNA from ancient eastern moa bones is unlocking the secrets of their survival during the last ice age, and providing lessons for today’s threatened species.
Together with artifacts from the past, ancient DNA can fill in details about our ancient ancestors. Nina R/Wikimedia Commons

Ancient DNA helps reveal social changes in Africa 50,000 years ago that shaped the human story

A new study doubles the age of ancient DNA in sub-Saharan Africa, revealing how people moved, mingled and had children together over the last 50,000 years.
Ancient DNA holds a great deal of valuable information - but it must be researched ethically. © Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

Why scholars have created global guidelines for ancient DNA research

Studying ancient DNA in Africa is valuable for understanding human evolution, population migrations, and human history locally, regionally and globally.
Stone arrowheads (Maros points) and other flaked stone implements from the Toalean culture of South Sulawesi. Shahna Britton/Andrew Thomson

Who were the Toaleans? Ancient woman’s DNA provides first evidence for the origin of a mysterious lost culture

The first ancient human DNA from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi — and the wider Wallacea islands group — sheds light on the early human history of the region.
A passenger pigeon flock being hunted in Louisiana. From the ‘Illustrated Shooting and Dramatic News’, 1875. (Wikimedia/Smith Bennett)

Why passenger pigeons went extinct a century ago

For decades, the extinction of passenger pigeons has been explained by two theories of human impact. New research shows one of these theories is now more compelling than the other.
20 years ago, who could predict how much more researchers would know today about the human past – let alone what they could learn from a thimble of dirt, a scrape of dental plaque, or satellites in space. Manuel Domínguez-Rodrigo

Archaeological discoveries are happening faster than ever before, helping refine the human story

20 years ago, who could predict how much more researchers would know today about the human past – let alone what they could learn from a thimble of dirt, a scrape of dental plaque, or satellites in space.
A Middle Bronze Age child from the Lebanese site of Sidon buried in a large jar. Smaller ceramics were placed with the dead as funerary objects. Claude Doumet-Serhal

How breastfeeding sparked population growth in ancient cities

Researchers used advanced chemical analyses to study breastfeeding in some of the world’s first farming communities.
Working out where Aboriginal remains came from will in take researchers from several disciplines working together. Michael Westaway

Returning to country: we should use genetics, geology and more to repatriate Aboriginal remains

It’s not always easy to work out where Aboriginal remains came from, but science can help.
Livestock, like these goats in the Rift Valley of Tanzania, are critical to household economies in East Africa. Katherine Grillo

Ancient DNA is revealing the origins of livestock herding in Africa

Pastoralism is a central part of many Africans’ identity. But how and when did this way of life get started on the continent? Ancient DNA can reveal how herding populations spread.
New technology means accessing new information from ancient human remains, some which have been in collections for decades. Duckworth Laboratory

Ancient DNA is a powerful tool for studying the past – when archaeologists and geneticists work together

Ancient DNA allows scientists to learn directly from the remains of people from the past. As this new field takes off, researchers are figuring out how to ethically work with ancient samples and each other.
Indigenous Australians must be involved in research around provenance and country. Here, representatives of the Willandra Aboriginal Elders visit the Griffith University ancient DNA laboratory. Renee Chapman

DNA from ancient Aboriginal Australian remains enables their return to Country

Museums around the world hold remains of Aboriginal people that were often taken without permission and in the absence of accurate records. New DNA methods may help return these items to country.
Eighty years ago, Seabiscuit trounced Triple Crown winner War Admiral. AP Photo

Can Seabiscuit’s DNA explain his elite racing ability?

The US went crazy for Seabiscuit when he won his famous 1938 match race against War Admiral. Now researchers are investigating the thoroughbred’s DNA to see what made him such an unlikely success.

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