The oldest DNA in the world, sequenced on a 1.65 million year old mammoth!

In recent years global warming has made it possible to conduct new research in the coldest regions of our planet. The Siberian permafrost, a deep layer of ice, enables more and more fossils to be discovered. This region of the world tells us a little more about the animals that lived there millions of years ago.

In 1970 a DNA was discovered in Siberia and has since been kept at the Moscow Academy of Sciences. As DNA research advances, it has just been identified as the oldest mammoth ever known: 1.65 million years separate us from this mammoth! Impressive.

These analyzes were carried out on three fossils and it may be the oldest sequenced DNA in the world. It is thanks to the molars, compared to those of other species, that researchers were able to date this DNA. Mammoth teeth come from three different people. These mammoths, the last survivors of which are 4000 years old, are located on the island of Wrangel, which is still in Siberia.

Until this discovery, the oldest existing DNA was that of a 500,000 to 700,000 year old horse! The mammoth samples would therefore go back to the time before the Vikings and even before the Neanderthals!

A promising study for the future of paleontological research

The study, published February 17 in the journal Nature and carried out by Love Dalen, paleogeneticist from Stockholm, still surprises the author. The three mammoths of the steppes would therefore have 1.65 million years for the oldest and 1.34 million years for the second. The youngest from 870,000 years!

3D illustration of two mammoths. Photo credit: Shutterstock / Warpaint

To arrive at their results, the researchers analyzed molar samples the size of a pinch of salt. And they managed to sequence millions of stones that make up DNA. From oldest to youngest, they even named the mammoths: Krestovka, Adycha and Chukochya!

Other analyzes show genetic variations for living in extreme cold. Therefore, fat deposits indicate significant hairiness long before the appearance of woolly mammoths. Research continues and is now focused on small mammals that we don’t know much about yet!