MessageToEagle.com - An international team of researchers has sequenced the so far oldest genome
from a prehistoric creature - a horse that had been kept frozen for the last 700,000 years in the
permafrost of Yukon, Canada.
Dr. Ludovic Orlando and Professor Eske Willerslev from the Centre for GeoGenetics in collaboration with
Danish and international colleagues from Denmark, China, Canada, USA, Switzerland, UK, Norway, France,
Sweden and Saudi Arabia- have been able to track major genomic changes over the last 700.000
years of evolution of the horse lineage.
Their work is a new record for the oldest complete genome ever sequenced and at the same time, change much
in the evolutionary history of the horse.
The researchres compared the genome in the 700,000 year old horse with the genome of a 43,000 year old horse,
six present day horses and the donkey the researchers could estimate how fast mutations accumulate through
time and calibrate a genome-wide mutation rate.
This revealed that the last common ancestor of all modern equids was living about 4.0-4.5 million years ago.
Therefore, the evolutionary radiation underlying the origin of horses, donkeys and zebras reaches back
in time twice as long as previously thought.
The results also put a happy end to a long discussion about the so-called Przewalski's Horse from
the Mongolian steppes.
The research reveals now that the Przewalski's horse population became isolated from the lineage leading
to the present day domesticated horses about 50,000 years ago.
This horse is genetically and physically different from all domesticated horses.
DNA molecule sequencing was based on data gathered during ten years of field work and research, carried out
by Dr. Duane Froese, University ofAlberta. Additionally, cold conditions, such as those from the Arctic
permafrost, are known to be favourable for DNA preservation.
"This was methodologically challenging but clearly some parameters worked better than others", says
Professor Eske Willerslev.
"But sequencing was just half the way really."
"Because 700,000 years of evolution and damage, it is not something that does come without any modification
to the DNA sequence itself. We had to improve our ability to identify modified and divergent ancient horse
sequences by aligning them to the genome of present day horses. Quite a computational challenge, especially
when the level of DNA modification outcompasses that seen in any other Arctic horses from the Late Pleistocene."
New advanced techniques in the new science like genomics and proteomics used for a better understanding
of an organism, enable scientists to reach ten times further back in time compared to before.
The results are now published in the international scientific journal Nature.
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