The University of Oxford and Physorg have reported that — in a classic Jurassic Park maneuver — scientists in Australia have announced that they have, for the very first time, successfully extracted DNA from the fossilized eggshells of extinct birds.
This list of extinxt birds includes such iconic giants such as the predatory New Zealand moa and the giant Madagascan elephant bird. The precise cause of extinction is not yet fully understood but it is probably linked to the arrival of humans.
The research, published in scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, shows that fossil eggshell is a previously unrecognized source of ancient DNA and can provide exceptional long-term preservation of DNA in warmer climates.
The DNA breakthrough was achieved when one Dr. Schwenninger and doctoral student James Haile, based at Oxford’s Ancient Biomolecules Centre, considered analyzing samples of sediment for his research. In Dr Shwenninger’s own words:
“This time last year, I gave James a few samples from several of our archaeological and sub-fossil sites in Madagascar to see if any plant or animal DNA could be extracted. I also mentioned to him that I had some eggshell which might be worth looking at. In fact, we had already tried this back in 1998 and again in 2003 but without success. He was very keen to give it another go and he succeeded where others, including his thesis supervisor had previously failed.”