Since its launch in June 2013, the “Timeline of the Human Genome” has been one of the most popular features on the Unlocking Life’s Code website.
Now a new interactive timeline the – “Timeline of Ancient DNA” – joins the website, bringing another twist to the excitement of DNA research.
In the early 1980s, scientists began isolating ancient DNA from sources such as museum specimens, archaeological finds, fossil remains, fossilized feces, permafrost ice cores and other unusual sources of DNA. Not surprisingly, DNA from these specimens is of low quality, posing special technological challenges for ancient DNA analyses. Researchers in many fields are actively retrieving genetic information from ancient specimens, making ancient DNA research a fertile area of collaboration between research institutions and museums.
The "Timeline of Ancient DNA” is presented as a collection of attractive scientific images and vibrant graphics threaded onto two vertical strands unmistakably resembling double-stranded DNA. As a user scrolls up and down the screen, the two strands zip and unzip, cleverly pairing each of the 32 images with its landmark date and short caption. Larger pictures for each milestone, as well as more details about each scientific finding, are easily retrieved by a click of the mouse or tap of the screen. Fully viewable and interactive on desktops and laptops, Macs and PCs, the timeline is also designed to replicate the experience of Mac and PC users on iPads and similar tablets.
Ancient DNA has grown from a scientific curiosity into a powerful research tool that enhances our understanding in areas as diverse as prehistoric human migration, historical plagues, ancient ecosystems, plant and animal domestication, animals’ extinction dates, and forensic identification of human remains.
The "Timeline of Ancient DNA” presents informative and attention-grabbing topics that cut across disciplines and offers a springboard for teaching scientific method, critical thinking, and analytical skills across the curriculum. In addition, the timeline supports the teaching of multiple Discipline Core ideas in the Next Generation Science Standards. Most notably, the timeline provides ample opportunities for crosscutting Life Sciences and Earth and Space Sciences curriculum that build on the study of the fossil record.
About the Creators:
"Timeline of Ancient DNA” was developed for the Unlocking Life’s Code website by the Education and Community Involvement Branch at the National Human Genome Research Institute and experts at the Smithsonian Institution.