Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Recreating Mammoth Hemoglobin: True Palaeobiology

Substitutions in woolly mammoth hemoglobin confer biochemical properties adaptive for cold tolerance. 2010. K. L. Campbel, et al. Nature Genetics, Published online 02 May 2010

A team of international researchers have recreated mammoth haemoglobin using ancient DNA preserved in bones from Siberian specimens 25,000 to 43,000 years old.
The team converted the mammoth haemoglobin DNA sequences into RNA, and inserted them into modern-day E. coli bacteria, which then manufactured the authentic mammoth protein.

Studies reveal special evolutionary adaptations that allowed the mammoth to cool its extremities down in harsh Arctic conditions to minimise heat loss.

"This is true palaeobiology, as we can study and measure how these animals functioned as if they were alive today."

"The resulting haemoglobin molecules are no different than 'going back in time' and taking a blood sample from a real mammoth," says Professor Campbell.

"We can now apply similar approaches to other extinct species, such as Australian marsupials," says team member Dr Jeremy Austin, who is currently using ancient DNA to study the evolution and extinction of the thylacine and Tasmanian Devil. link