An artist's conception of ancient steppe mammoths, which preceded the woolly mammoth. The DNA was obtained from a tooth of a steppe mammoth.
  • “This DNA is incredibly old. The samples are a thousand times older than Viking remains.”
  • The mammoth was not actually a woolly mammoth: Around one million years ago there were no woolly mammoths.
  • The new results also open the door for future studies on other species, researchers say.

The world’s oldest DNA has been discovered, scientists announced in a new study published Wednesday. 

The DNA, which is more than one million years old, was recovered from two specimens of steppe mammoth, a predecessor to the more well-known woolly mammoth. The oldest previously sequenced DNA had dated from 780,000 to 560,000 years ago, the study said

“This DNA is incredibly old. The samples are a thousand times older than Viking remains, and even pre-date the existence of humans and Neanderthals,” said study lead author author Love Dalén, a professor of evolutionary genetics at the Centre for Palaeogenetics in Stockholm, Sweden, in a news release.

The DNA came from the molars of mammoth specimens from the Early and Middle Pleistocene subepochs from northeast Siberia. The teeth had been buried for over a million years in the Siberian permafrost.

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