Could Amelia Earhart have finally been found?

March 3rd, 2011 - 4:54 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Mar 3 (ANI): Experts have revealed that human DNA may be present in fragments of material, which could provide crucial information about the fate of Amelia Earhart.

The legendary woman pilot disappeared 74 years ago while flying over the Pacific Ocean in a record attempt to circle the world at the equator.

Scientists found material that consisted of a tiny bone fragment and clumps of material resembling soil or faeces on Nikumaroro, an uninhabited, waterless tropical island in the southwestern Pacific republic of Kiribati where Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan might have made an emergency landing.

While human mitochondrial DNA was recovered from the clumps, the bone fragments haven’t revealed anything conclusive.

“There does appear to be ancient DNA present in the bones and material we collected but it’s in very bad condition,” Discovery News quoted Ric Gillespie, executive director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), as saying.

“A large and growing body of circumstantial evidence suggests that Earhart and her navigator landed and lived for a time as castaways only to eventually perish on the atoll,” Gillespie said.

Forensic anthropologist Karen Burns wondered whether the bone fragment might be part of a human finger.

Indeed, it was found at a site on the atoll where the partial skeleton of a castaway was discovered in 1940.

Recovered by British Colonial Service Officer Gerald Gallagher, the partial skeleton was described in a forensic report and attributed to an individual “more likely female than male,” “more likely white than Polynesian or other Pacific Islander,” “most likely between 5 feet 5 inches and 5 feet 9 inches in height.”

However, the bones were lost.

“No hand bones were found in 1940, so the presence of a surviving human finger bone seems plausible,” Gillespie said.

Initially, the finger-like bone was thought to belong to a turtle but archaeologist Tom King didn’t think so.

“All turtle bones were associated with the shell. No limb bones were identified. If whoever brought the turtle to the site didn’t bring the legs, how did a phalanx-like bone get there?” said Gillespie.

The bone fragment was then sent to the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma, where initial tests for the presence of human mitochondrial DNA in the bone fragment were positive, but subsequent testing was unable to replicate the results.

More general tests for animal DNA, human and non-human, provided “no positive results,” suggesting three possibilities: there was no animal DNA in the bone; there was animal DNA, but it was too little or of too poor of quality to reliably analyze; or the real time Polymerase Chain Reaction method used to detect the DNA was ineffective for targeting the particular animal.

“For now, the question of whether the bone is human must remain unanswered,” Lewis concluded.

“DNA from two individuals was detected but to date, the amount extracted is not sufficient for comparison to Earhart reference samples,” Gillespie said.

According to Lewis, the most common explanation for multiple sequences is either the sample is associated with a temporary latrine used by more than one person, or the retrieved data still includes modern human contamination.

“We will continue to explore how well these explanations fit the data by further molecular testing,” Lewis said. (ANI)

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