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Hair yields ancient DNA

Researchers extract complete mitochondrial genomes from mammoth coat-hair shafts

Melissa Lee Phillips
Ancient samples of animal hair shafts can yield complete, high-quality mitochondrial genomes, even when the hair has been kept at room temperature for hundreds of years, reports this week's Science. According to the researchers, the finding suggests that scientists may be able to perform genomic analyses on animal specimens stored in natural history museums."This, of course, is amazing, because the mantra is that you want specimens straight out of the permafrost that you keep frozen," said Ross MacPhee of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, who was not involved in the work.Researchers have used various genetic methods to extract both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA from ancient specimens, usually bones. Although they've managed to recover DNA from extinct species such as wooly mammoths and giant flightless birds, "false positive results have plagued ancient DNA for a long time," Michael Holfreiter of the Max Planck Institute...

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