Friday, November 21, 2008

Ancient Hair Ball Leads to New Discoveries

The woolly mammoth was a very larger mammal that is a distant relative of todays elephant. It was well adapt to live in arctic conditions with a very thick shaggy layer of hair. They were thought to live in northern Eurasia and northern North America. The oldest woolly mammoth bones were found to be about 150,000 years old, and the latest bones found were from about 4,000 years ago. Early research has been done on the genome of many extinct creatures, but none with such success as recent efforts by researchers on the woolly mammoth.
Researchers at Penn State lead by genomicist Stephan Schuster recently decoded over 70% of the woolly mammoth genome. The research team studied the DNA from an ancient woolly mammoth hair ball, which was purchased over the Internet. The hair ball was perfect for DNA sequencing, because hair is less likely to contain bacteria than that of bone which degrades the usable DNA over time. This is the first time an extinct animal's genome has been almost completely mapped. They sequenced 3.3 billion base pairs of the woolly mammoth which is more than 100 times more than any previous work. The researchers were able to do this with a relatively new sequencing technology called 454 method. With their results the researches found that the mammoths were most closely related to todays African elephants. They also found that there were actually two species of woolly mammoths who split about 1.5 million years ago which was previously believed to be true.The results also found that mammoths had very low genetic diversity which made them much more susceptible to extinction.


Alex Pavidapha week 10


At 2:52 AM, Anonymous Allison Cornell said...

That's really neat, though I don't think I would trust purchasing such a thing off the internet. Is there some kind of auction site for scientists? I didn't know that hair was preferable to bone for sequencing. What's the 454 method? I also had no idea there were two different species of mammoths. I had assumed there was only one.

~Allison Cornell (10)

At 10:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How long was the process of decoding the woolly mammoth genome? Will the researchers continue to decode more of the genome?

How closely related are the woolly mammoth and the African elephant?


At 11:37 PM, Blogger Cecelia said...

That's pretty cool. Where online did they buy woolly mammoth hair? How would they even know it's legitimate?
That is really interesting though, do you know what their method involved?

-Cecelia Hunt

At 9:48 AM, Blogger PWH said...

This is really neat, but like others mentioned it does seem odd to purchase a hairball off of the interenet. Did they compare it to the the genome they had tried to map before to make sure it was really hair from the woolly mammoth? What it exactly did they do in method 454?

-Tara Quist

At 1:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow i can' believe they purchased a wooly mammoth hairbal over the internet. How long did it take for them to decode the hair ball itself? Have they found any interesting from the genome so far?

Mia DiFabbio

At 2:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a certain protocal that is followed by online fossil venders and can be verified by anyone who purchases products from them.

This is amazing because the species whose genome the scientists are sequencing is extinct. Ancient genomics will become more popular on account of seventy percent of the mammoth's genome being sequenced. There are genomes of living species that have not sequenced as much as this huge extinct mammal.

Jordan Grinstein (10)

At 2:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is very interesting, if it is true. I'm not sure i would trust something i would get off the internet to be the actual thing. Is this the only time that the woolly mammoth has been studied so indepth?

-Amanda Joyce

At 3:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's really cool! Where was the hair found? Was it preserved in ice? I didn't know hair could survive intact for so long, I would think it would break down eventually. Very impressive scientific work!

-Jane de Verges

At 4:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This article kind of reminds me of "Jurassic Park". How was a hair ball perserved over, like, a billion years? And purchased over the internet? This sounds more like a prank than a serious study, though. How does the 454 method work?

Hanbing Guo

At 6:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where exactly did someone on the internet get a ball of wooly mammoth fur? That's pretty weird...
If the DNA was in good enough shape to allow 70% of the genome to be sequenced, might it be possible to be in good enough shape for cloning? I think the obstalce to cloning mammoths in the past was that the DNA was too damaged/not complete enough. At what point does cloning become feasible?
-Corinne Delisle

At 8:38 PM, Blogger PWH said...

It was very interesting to hear that there were actually two species of woolly mammoths and that they are closely related to African elephants. I say this because there are actually two species of African elephants found today.

-Benjamin Spozio

At 8:40 PM, Blogger PWH said...

I love a mammoth so it is happy to hear this new genome stuff. In addition, buying mammoth hair through internet that was very interesting. How did they sure it was real mammoth hair or not? Also what are the methods of 454? Can you explain more? It is very interesting article.

So Jin Lee

At 8:43 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Which website can you buy woolly mammoth hair balls? The 454 technique must be very efficient. What are the basics of it? They said that the genetic diversity of the species was low. In order to determine that, there must be DNA sequences from other mammoth specimens. Did they mention DNA work done on other woolly mammoth remains?

Jimmy Sullivan

At 10:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

how is this "very low genetic diversity" related to extinction? I would like to know what exactly low genetic diversity it is referring to. It looks like to me that ourselves don't have much genetic diversity either. that does mean we are going to extinct any soon.

-Yi, Jeonsang

At 11:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was interesting but are they a 100% sure that is real hair from a woolly mammoth? I think it kind of lost credibility when it said they got the hair off the internet. Not everything you buy online is authentic. But it seems like the results show that the hair may actually be the real deal.

- Debbie Theodat

At 11:38 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Great article! I know it's been a long time coming for scientists decoding the genome of the woolly mammoth. I find it fascinating that an entire animal can be preserved hair and all within a block of ice. Despite the fact that the mammoths had a low genetic diversity I thought that it was believed that the result of their extinction was a result of humans killing them all off. I have wondered if it will be someday possible to bring woolly mammoths back but I suppose by the time this occurs there won't really be any place left that is cold enough for them to live.

posted by: Lindsay Goodyear

At 12:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've heard about woolly mammoths in the news recently, and that there was a new technique to extract damaged DNA from samples, particularity DNA damaged by ice, such as a mammoths. Its just rumors but some scientists want to clone a mammoth using this technique.
I found it very interesting that through this research that they found little variance in mammoth DNA which could have led to their extinction, which is a cause that I have never considered.

-Stephen Lee

At 1:08 AM, Blogger PWH said...

I knew of the "believed" spit in the species of Woolly Mammoth. Do you know if there was any information covering the the two species of Mammoths' fitness in comparison to each other? Was the split of the species the result of divergent evolution?

-Kiel Boutelle

At 1:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, it's amazing what you can find over the Internet. In your first sentance you wrote the word "larger" instead of "large" and in the second you used "adapt" instead of "adapted". You said the woolly mammoth is most closely related to the African elephant but there are two. I was wondering if you knew which species of African elephant is its closest kin?

Ada Marie Flores

At 7:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They really bought a hairball off the internet? I hope they bought it from a reputable source. The person who cut my boyfriend's hair the other day was talking about this and claimed that in 10 years there would be a woolly mammoth running around. Was there any suggestion of this, or were these just the rantings of a slightly crazy person?

Amy Kawazoe

At 8:17 PM, Blogger PWH said...

That would be cool if they could artificially bring the Wooly Mammoths back and maybe put them in zoos or in labratories to study. These things are huge though. There is an exhibit in the Amherst College Museum that houses some fossils of these creatures that I highly suggest you check out. How did someone manage to find Woolly Mammoth hair?

Patrick Salome

At 3:11 PM, Blogger PWH said...

cool, whats whats the overall plan with this genome in the end, are we going be entering into a jurassic park world where the extinct come to life??

-Joe Alonzo (10)


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