DAVID PARKER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DAVID PARKER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Conceptual computer artwork showing strands of fossilised DNA being scanned by X-Ray diffraction, the method first used to identify the helical structure of DNA. The recovery of DNA from archaeological and palaeontological remains has intrigued scientists for many years. The DNA molecule is a relatively weak molecule compared with other biomacromolecules in tissues, but the sequence of its bases holds insights into questions that cannot be resolved by standard palaeontological methods. Recent advances in the field, such as the recovery of DNA sequences from coprolites found in the southwestern USA, as well as from the Neanderthal-type specimen, have shed new light on populations that are now extinct.
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