Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers kick-start ancient DNA

Date:
November 22, 2010
Source:
Binghamton University
Summary:
Researchers recently revived ancient bacteria trapped for thousands of years in water droplets embedded in salt crystals.

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

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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Binghamton University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Binghamton University. "Researchers kick-start ancient DNA." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101122131251.htm>.
Binghamton University. (2010, November 22). Researchers kick-start ancient DNA. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101122131251.htm
Binghamton University. "Researchers kick-start ancient DNA." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101122131251.htm (accessed July 26, 2014).

Share This




More Fossils & Ruins News

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Did ISIS Destroy Jonah's Tomb?

Did ISIS Destroy Jonah's Tomb?

Newsy (July 25, 2014) Unverified footage posted to YouTube purportedly shows ISIS militants destroying a shrine widely believed to be the tomb of the prophet Jonah. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Richard III's Car Park Burial Site Opens to Public

Richard III's Car Park Burial Site Opens to Public

AFP (July 25, 2014) Visitors will be able to look down from a glass walkway on the grave of King Richard III when a new centre opens in the English cathedral city of Leicester, where the infamous hunchback was found under a car park in 2012. Duration: 00:35 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites

Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites

AP (July 25, 2014) Emory University's Center for Digital Scholarship has launched a self-guided mobile tour app to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War's Battle of Atlanta. (July 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A new study claims a set of prehistoric T-Rex footprints supports the theory that the giant predators hunted in packs instead of alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins