Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ancient DNA holds clues to climate change adaptation

Date:
January 31, 2012
Source:
University of Adelaide
Summary:
Thirty-thousand-year-old bison bones discovered in permafrost at a Canadian goldmine are helping scientists unravel the mystery about how animals adapt to rapid environmental change.

These are thirty-thousand-year-old permafrost bison bones from the Yukon region of Canada.
Credit: The University of Adelaide

Thirty-thousand-year-old bison bones discovered in permafrost at a Canadian goldmine are helping scientists unravel the mystery about how animals adapt to rapid environmental change.

The bones play a key role in a world-first study, led by University of Adelaide researchers, which analyses special genetic modifications that turn genes on and off, without altering the DNA sequence itself. These 'epigenetic' changes can occur rapidly between generations -- without requiring the time for standard evolutionary processes.

Such epigenetic modifications could explain how animal species are able to respond to rapid climate change.

In a collaboration between the University of Adelaide's Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) and Sydney's Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, researchers have shown that it is possible to accurately measure epigenetic modifications in extinct animals and populations.

The team of researchers measured epigenetic modifications in 30,000-year-old permafrost bones from the Yukon region in Canada, and compared them to those in modern-day cattle, and a 30-year-old mummified cow from New Zealand.

Project leader Professor Alan Cooper, Director of ACAD, says: "Epigenetics is challenging some of our standard views of evolutionary adaptation, and the way we think about how animals use and inherit their DNA. In theory, such systems would be invaluable for a wide range of rapid evolutionary adaptation but it has not been possible to measure how or whether they are used in nature, or over evolutionary timescales."

Epigenetics specialist and co-investigator Dr Catherine Suter, from the Victor Chang Institute, has been studying the role of epigenetics in adaptation in laboratory animals. She jumped at the chance to test epigenetic methods in ancient DNA, which had never previously been attempted.

"This is the first step towards testing the idea that epigenetics has driven evolution in natural populations," Dr Suter says.

Professor Cooper says: "The climate record shows that very rapid change has been a persistent feature of the recent past, and organisms would need to adapt to these changes in their environment equally quickly. Standard mutation and selection processes are likely to be too slow in many of these situations."

"Standard genetic tests do not detect epigenetic changes, because the actual DNA sequence is the same," says lead author, ACAD senior researcher Bastien Llamas, an Australian Research Council (ARC) Fellow. "However, we were able to use special methods to show that epigenetic sites in this extinct species were comparable to modern cattle.

"There is growing interest in the potential evolutionary role of epigenetic changes, but to truly demonstrate this will require studies of past populations as they experience major environmental changes," he says.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Bastien Llamas, Michelle L. Holland, Kefei Chen, Jennifer E. Cropley, Alan Cooper, Catherine M. Suter. High-Resolution Analysis of Cytosine Methylation in Ancient DNA. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (1): e30226 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030226

Cite This Page:

University of Adelaide. "Ancient DNA holds clues to climate change adaptation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 January 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120131102519.htm>.
University of Adelaide. (2012, January 31). Ancient DNA holds clues to climate change adaptation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120131102519.htm
University of Adelaide. "Ancient DNA holds clues to climate change adaptation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120131102519.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) A new study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that more than half of the world's wildlife population has declined since 1970. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) A study released Monday suggests dolphins might be able to sense the Earth's magnetic field and possibly use it as a means of navigation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How To Battle Stink Bug Season

How To Battle Stink Bug Season

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) Homeowners in 33 states grapple with stink bugs moving indoors at this time of year. Here are a few tips to avoid stink bug infestations. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
California University Designs Sustainable Winery

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) Amid California's worst drought in decades, scientists at UC Davis design a sustainable winery that includes a water recycling system. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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