Oldest-Known Proteins?

Molecules extracted from 3.8 million-year-old ostrich eggshells appear to break the record for oldest preserved proteins.

Ben Andrew Henry
Sep 19, 2016


Researchers recently announced having extracted proteins from 3.8 million-year-old ostrich eggshells—the oldest intact preserved proteins on record. In a keynote address at the International Symposium on Biomolecular Archaeology on September 15, Matthew Collins of the University of York in the U.K. reported recovering the proteins at a fossil site in Laetoli, Tanzania, Science reported.

Collins and colleagues also extracted and sequenced proteins from 1.7-million-year-old fossilized teeth at a site in Dmanisi, Georgia, according to Science. The teeth appear to come from extinct horses, rhino, and deer, but this has yet to be confirmed by amino acid analyses.

Previously, the oldest sequenced proteins came from a 700,000-year-old horse found in Canada’s Yukon Territory, although other, disputed reports identified preserved proteins as old as 75 million years in dinosaur fossils, Science reported.