Scientists introduce mammoth DNA into bacteria…wait, what?!

This is a SUMMARY of Ed Yong’s piece “The Bacteria that Absorbed Mammoth DNA.” Link is below!

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen found that bacteria can incorporate ancient DNA into their own genetic code, giving insight to the way bacteria can evolve quickly.

In his blog Not Exactly Rocket Science, Ed Yong describes the ability of microbes to pick up DNA from their surroundings. There are fragments of DNA everywhere, coming from living things that have died and decomposed. Most of “the fragments are far too small to include entire genes,” Yong wrote, but the research gives scientists insight into the ability for bacteria to adapt and evolve quickly.

Soren Overballe-Petersen and his team in Copenhagen knew that bacteria could incorporate small, damaged fragments of DNA into their own genetic code, and they “wondered if bacteria could take up extremely old DNA too.” The only problem, Yong wrote, was that it’s hard to find DNA from ancient microbes.

What Overballe-Petersen had was something they knew was really old: a 43,000 year old mammoth bone. The microbes were able to pick up this genetic material and insert it into their DNA. “This genetic material,” Yong wrote, “broken and shattered by many millennia of decay, is now back in living cells again.”

The research could give insight into problems like antibiotic-resistant bacteria that devastate hospitals, Yong wrote. Killing living bacteria in hospital rooms doesn’t necessarily kill the DNA, which could get ‘picked up’ by bacteria again, Overballe-Petersen said.

Read Yong’s original post here: The Bacteria That Absorbed Mammoth DNA