Well-preserved specimen pushes back the timing of modern horse evolution.
DNA shines a light back into the past, showing us things that fossils can't. But how far back can that light extend?
Some of the oldest DNA sequences come from mastodon and polar bear fossils about 50,000 and 110,000 years old, respectively. But a new study published online today in the journal Nature reports the latest in the push for recovering ever more ancient DNA sequences. Samples from a horse leg bone more than 700,000 years old have yielded the oldest full genome known to date.
"We knew that sequencing ancient genomes as old as 70,000 to 80,000 years old was possible," said Ludovic Orlando, an evolutionary geneticist with the Natural History Museum of Denmark at the University of Copenhagen. "So we said, why not try even further back in time?"
The Pleistocene horse genome Orlando and colleagues pieced together helped them determine that the ancestor to the Equus lineage—the group that gave rise to modern horses, zebras, and donkeys—arose 4 to 4.5 million years ago, or about two million years earlier than previously thought. (Learn more about the evolution of horses.)
For the rest of the story: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/06/130626-ancient-dna-oldest-sequenced-horse-paleontology-science/