In this pioneering study, evolutionary biologist Eske Willerslev at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, obtained five permafrost cores from Siberia ranging from 400,000 to 10,000 years old. Analysis revealed that sediments deposited in the cores contained DNA from at least 19 types of plants – including the oldest DNA sequences known at the time. The sediments also contained DNA sequences from megafauna (large animals) including horses, bison, and mammoths. This kind of DNA information helps scientists track the regional changes in types and diversity of plants and animals.
Did you know? An ice core taken from the right site can be used to reconstruct an uninterrupted and detailed climate record extending over hundreds of thousands of years.