Scientists extract protein from ancient bones

June 6th, 2011 - 10:24 pm ICT by IANS  

London, June 6 (IANS) Researchers have successfully extracted protein from the bones of a 600,000-year-old mammoth, paving the way for the identification of ancient fossils.

Using an ultra-high resolution mass spectrometer, bio-archaeologists were able to produce a near complete collagen sequence for the West Runton Elephant, a Steppe Mammoth skeleton discovered in Norfolk in 1990.

The remarkable 85 percent complete skeleton — the most complete example of its species ever found in the world — is preserved by Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service in Norwich, Britain.

Bio-archaeologist Matthew Collins, from the University of York, said: “The time depth is absolutely remarkable. Until several years ago we did not believe we would find any collagen in a skeleton of this age, even if it was as well preserved as the West Runton Elephant.

“We believe protein lasts in a useful form 10 times as long as DNA which is normally only useful in discoveries of up to 100,000 years old in Northern Europe,” a York statement said.

“The implications are that we can use collagen sequencing to look at very old extinct animals. It also means we can look through old sites and identify remains from tiny fragments of bone.”

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