View Full Version : Extinct Cave Bears Get Their DNA Sequenced

06-02-2005, 06:32 PM
Extinct cave bears get their DNA sequenced


Thu Jun 2, 2:13 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Researchers have sequenced the DNA of two extinct cave bears and say their method is accurate enough to try doing it on extinct humans such as Neanderthals, according to a report published on Thursday.

The cave bears are the first extinct animals to have their genes sequenced, and the findings can be used to determine the precise relationship between the 40,000-year-old bears and living species.

But the main message is that the technique should be useful in examining Neanderthal DNA, the researchers report in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

"We picked cave bear as an initial test case ancient DNA target because the samples we used in the study are roughly the same age as Neanderthals," said Eddy Rubin of the U.S. Department of Energy, where some of the work was done.

"Our real interest is in hominids which include humans and the extinct Neanderthal -- the only other hominid species that we have to compare with humans. Our nearest living relative is the chimp and that's five million years of divergence," Rubin added in a statement.

The researchers include Svante Paabo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who first extracted and analyzed DNA from Neanderthal bones in 1997.

Paabo's team worked with mitochondrial DNA, which is found in the body of the cell and passed down virtually intact from mothers to their children.

Genetics experts need nuclear DNA -- the kind that is mixed together and passed along from both parents -- to get a real idea of a creature's genetic heritage.

To do this, the international team of researchers turned to cave bear remains from Austria.

"We extracted DNA from a cave bear tooth recovered from Ochsenhalt Cave, Austria and a cave bear bone from Gamssulzen Cave, Austria, dated at 42,290 and 44,160 years before present respectively," they wrote in their report.

They compared the sequences with DNA from dogs, modern bears and other animals, and filtered out obvious contamination from microbes and fungi.

"When people hear about our success, they immediately think about how this strategy could work for dinosaurs," Rubin said.

Dinosaur DNA plays a fictional role in Michael

Crichton's "Jurassic Park," a novel made into a film in which dinosaurs are resurrected using DNA taken from

amber-preserved insects and cloning technology.

While experts have found some soft tissue in 70-million-year-old dinosaur fossils, it is not at all clear whether any measurable DNA remains.

Rubin said it may also be possible to extract DNA from the remains found in Indonesia of the Flores Man, a small Homo erectus nicknamed "the hobbit" because of its tiny stature. These remains have been dated to just 18,000 years ago.

06-02-2005, 06:38 PM
i can so see them making a zoo or museum out of extinct cloned things.... not exactly like jerassic park but close.