Research Highlights: Determining How Long DNA Last in Resin-Embedded Insects

Aethiocarenus burmanicus (George Poinar, Jr.). Image Source:

Original Article:

  • There were past claims about fossil DNA recovery from different organisms such as bacteria, plants, insects, and mammals dating back in time from thousands to million years ago.
  • Many of these recovery claims especially those described from million-year-old amber have faced criticism.
  • Such criticism includes DNA recovery claims as being the result of modern environmental contamination and for lack of reproducibility.
  • Today, DNA can be obtained with confidence using modern genomic technique from a variety of substrates such as bones, teeth, gum, museum specimens and fossil insects of different ages.
  • Although the modern genomic technique usually works with substrates aged less than one million years, results can also be obtained from much older materials using palaeoproteomics.
  • Palaeoproteomics is the study of ancient proteins.
  • However, new attempts to determine the presence of DNA in insects preserved in 40,000-year old resin have been unsuccessful or not properly documented.
  • Resin-embedded specimens are regarded as unsuitable for genetic studies.
  • Resin is a sticky substance that oozes out of trees.
  • For the first time, researchers demonstrate that DNA is still present in beetles embedded in 6-year-old and 2-year-old resin pieces from an amber tree collected in Madagascar.
  • Researchers describe an optimized method which meets all the requirements and precautions for ancient DNA experiments for their purpose which is to explore the DNA preservation limits in resin.
  • The research objective is far from starting an uncontrolled search for ancient DNA in amber as it was in the past, but to start resolving basic aspects from the DNA preservation in resin and search from the most modern samples to the ancient ones, step by step.
  • The study concludes that it is possible to study genomics from resin-embedded organisms, although the time limits remain to be determined.


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