Mammoth Wooly

Mammoth poo is the unlikely source of 40,000-year-old bacteria that has been brought back to life by researchers at the Institute of Biology Leiden. Bacterial spores were revived successfully and sequenced to determine which bacteria were present when the mammoths roamed the permafrost.

The bacteria were isolated from the poo of a remarkably well-preserved mammoth found on an island in the Arctic Ocean in 2015. By using special nutrient media, the team managed to grow the spores of a variety of bacteria called actinobacteria. Spores are produced by many bacteria and fungi to contain their genetic material and are extremely hardy to temperature change and dehydration.

The DNA was sequenced and compared to known strains. Surprisingly the DNA was remarkably different to current species, but not enough to be completely new bacteria. The changes are hoped to provide new insights into the evolution of the species – or even produce new antibiotics that their modern counterparts no longer can.

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