Biology
British butterfly is evolving to respond to climate change — As global temperatures rise and climatic zones move polewards, species will need to find different environments to prevent extinction. New research, published today in the journal Molecular…
Archaeologists find new evidence of animals being introduced to prehistoric Caribbean — An archaeological research team from North Carolina State University, the University of Washington and University of Florida has found one of the most diverse collections of prehistoric…
Microscopic worms could hold the key to living life on Mars — The astrophysicist Stephen Hawking believes that if humanity is to survive we will have up sticks and colonise space. But is the human body up to the challenge?…
Chemical warfare of stealthy silverfish — A co-evolutionary arms race exists between social insects and their parasites. Army ants (Leptogenys distinguenda) share their nests with several parasites such as beetles, snails and…
Stinky frogs are a treasure trove of antibiotic substances — Some of the nastiest smelling creatures on Earth have skin that produces the greatest known variety of anti-bacterial substances that hold promise for becoming new weapons in the battle…
Genetic code of first arachnid cracked — An international team of scientists - including Ghent VIB scientists - has succeeded in deciphering the genome of the spider mite. This is also the first known genome of an arachnid.…
How bats 'hear' objects in their path — By placing real and virtual objects in the flight paths of bats, scientists at the Universities of Bristol and Munich have shed new light on how echolocation works. Their research is…
Counting cats: The endangered snow leopards of the Himalayas — The elusive snow leopard (Panthera uncia) lives high in the mountains across Central Asia. Despite potentially living across 12 countries the actual numbers of this beautiful large…
Surprise role of nuclear structure protein in development — Scientists have long held theories about the importance of proteins called B-type lamins in the process of embryonic stem cells replicating and differentiating into different varieties…
Pregnancy is a drag for bottlenose dolphins — Lumbering around during the final weeks before delivery is tough for any pregnant mum. Most females adjust their movements to compensate for the extreme physical changes that accompany…
Where am I? > Home > News > Biology

Researchers kick-start ancient DNA

Science Centric | 23 November 2010 16:53 GMT
Printable version A clip for your blog or website E-mail the story to a friend
Bookmark or share the story on your social network Vote for this article Decrease text size Increase text size
DON'T MISS —
How cancer cells loose their rhythm
How cancer cells loose their rhythm — Immortality and uncontrolled cell division are the fundamental differences between cancer cells and normal cells. A widely…
Rensselaer researchers to send bacteria into orbit aboard space shuttle Atlantis
Rensselaer researchers to send bacteria into orbit aboard space shuttle Atlantis — A team of researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will send an army of microorganisms into space this week, to…
More Biology

Binghamton University researchers recently revived ancient bacteria trapped for thousands of years in water droplets embedded in salt crystals.

For decades, geologists have looked at these water droplets - called fluid inclusions - and wondered whether microbes could be extracted from them. Fluid inclusions have been found inside salt crystals ranging in age from thousands to hundreds of millions years old.

But there has always been a question about whether the organisms cultured from salt crystals are genuinely ancient material or whether they are modern-day contaminants, said Tim Lowenstein, professor of geological sciences and environmental studies at Binghamton.

Lowenstein and Binghamton colleague J. Koji Lum, professor of anthropology and of biological sciences, believe they have resolved this doubt. And they've received $400,000 from the National Science Foundation to support further research on the topic.

Lowenstein's team, which has been pursuing this problem for years, began by examining the fluid inclusions under a microscope. 'Not only did we find bacteria, we found several types of algae as well,' he said. 'The algae actually may be the food on which the bacteria survive for tens of thousands of years.'

When Lum got involved, the researchers began to wonder about the DNA of the organisms they were finding.

'You have a little trapped ecosystem,' Lum said. 'Some of these guys are feeding on other ones trapped in this space. The things that aren't alive in there, their DNA is still preserved.'

Lum's graduate student Krithivas Sankaranarayanan reviewed existing literature on ancient DNA and helped to develop a protocol for use with Lowenstein's samples.

'We have these samples going back from the present to over 100,000 years in one exact location,' Lum said. 'So Tim can look at the salinity and reconstruct ancient climates. Now we're looking at the DNA from bacteria, the algae, the fungi and what was living in those waters and how those things changed over time. We have a view of all the different organisms that were in the lakes at the time these inclusions were formed.'

The researchers sequence the DNA and culture the bacteria they find. Then it's time to think big. Lum's most optimistic view of the project goes like this: 'It's possible that we can observe organisms evolving and see how they're reacting to climate change over geologic time.'

The samples Lowenstein works with are drawn from Death Valley and Saline Valley in California as well as from sites in Michigan, Kansas and Italy.

Temperatures at these locations may have reached 130 degrees Fahrenheit in the past, and the pockets of water trapped inside the rocks are generally very salty.

The environment may sound harsh - in fact, it's among the most extreme on Earth - but the creatures that survive there are tough.

'These are some of the hardiest beasts on the planet,' Lum said. And the conditions inside these water droplets are ideally suited to preserving DNA.

'They're like time capsules,' Lowenstein agreed.

Source: Binghamton University


Leave a comment
The details you provide on this page [e-mail address] will not be used to send unsolicited e-mail, and will not be supplied to a third party! Please note that we can not promise to give everyone a response. Comments are fully moderated. Once approved they will be posted within 24 hours.
Expand the form to leave a comment

RSS FEEDS, NEWSLETTER
Find the topic you want. Science Centric offers several RSS feeds for the News section.

Or subscribe for our Newsletter, a free e-mail publication. It is published practically every day.

Satellites, DNA and dolphinsSatellites, DNA and dolphins

— Using DNA samples and images from Earth-orbiting satellites, conservationists from Columbia University, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the American Museum of…

Microbial mat the size of Greece found on oxygen-starved South American seafloorMicrobial mat the size of Greece found on oxygen-starved South American seafloor

— Ocean explorers are puzzling out Nature's purpose behind an astonishing variety of tiny ocean creatures like microbes and zooplankton animals - each perhaps a ticket-holder…

Lessons from the pond: Clues from green algae on the origin of males and femalesLessons from the pond: Clues from green algae on the origin of males and females

— A multicellular green alga, Volvox carteri, may have finally unlocked the secrets behind the evolution of different sexes. A team led by researchers at the Salk…

All for one and one for allAll for one and one for all

— There is strength in numbers if you want to get your voice heard. But how to do you get your say if you are in the minority? That's a dilemma faced not only by the…

Popular tags in Biology: bird · mammal · photosynthesis · plant