Greenland’s Lost World – Life Of 2 million years ago
Scientists have identified DNA from animals, plants, and microbes dating to about 2 million years ago. The oldest on record by far – from sediment at Greenland’s northernmost point dug up around the mouth of an Arctic Ocean fjord, revealing an amazing lost world at this remote frontier.
Scientists used it to reveal what life was like 2 million years ago in the northern tip of Greenland.
Ancient DNA is highly perishable, the study indicated that under the right conditions. In this case, permafrost – it can survive longer than previously believed possible.
What researchers says?
The researchers extracted and sequenced DNA from 41 organic-rich sediment samples obtained from five sites on the Peary Land peninsula jutting into the Arctic Ocean. Microscopic fragments of DNA were extracted from clay and quartz in the sediment. They recalled more than 100 types of animals and plants.
The DNA also showed traces of animals including geese, hares, reindeer, and lemmings. Previously, a dung beetle and some hare remains had been the only signs of animal life at the site, Willerslev said.
One big surprise was finding DNA from the mastodon, an extinct species that looks like a mix between an elephant and a mammoth, Kjær said.
Many mastodon fossils have previously been found in temperate forests in North America. That’s an ocean away from Greenland, and much farther south, Willerslev said.
The samples did not reveal any carnivores – likely because they were more irregular in number. But the scientists speculated that there may have been ancient bears, wolves, or saber-toothed tigers. “We don’t know what was there, but probably something that ate mastodons and reindeer,” said Willerslev.
The authors say it is encouraging that these species were able to thrive so far north in a region that would still have been cast into darkness for much of the winter, despite warmer temperatures.