|The Przewalski’s horse, Equus ferus przewalskii|
The last remaining wild horse, recently saved from extinction in Mongolia.
Yesterday's Nature brings us news of yet another advance in evolutionary science in the form of a major advance in genome sequencing from ancient sources. As reported by a team led by Ludovic Orlando of the Centre for GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen, scientists have been able to sequence the full genome from an ancient ancestor of the modern horse from a specimen found in Canadian permafrost. The specimen is believed to be between 780,000 and 560,000 years old.
The sequence was extracted from a foot bone of a horse that lived between 780,000 and 560,000 years ago. By sequencing the animal's genome, along with those of a 43,000-year-old horse, five modern domestic horse breeds, a wild Przewalski’s horse and a donkey, researchers were able to trace the evolutionary history of the horse family in unprecedented detail. They estimate that the ancient ancestor of the modern Equus genus, which includes horses, donkeys and zebras, branched off from other animal lineages about 4 million years ago — twice as long ago as scientists had previously thought.
“We have beaten the time barrier,” says evolutionary biologist Ludovic Orlando of the University of Copenhagen, who led the work with colleague Eske Willerslev. Noting that the oldest DNA sequenced before this came from a polar bear between 110,000 and 130,000 years old2, Orlando says: “All of a sudden, you have access to many more extinct species than you could have ever dreamed of sequencing before.”
This is great news and should spread despair and despondency amongst the loons and liars of the Discovery Institute and other frauds who make a living from Creation pseudo-science, unless they manage not to notice it, as the techniques could be adapted to other DNA samples if and when they are obtained, so giving us a clearer picture of the evolution of other species and so better able to understand the nitty-gritty of how evolution works.
As well as recognising what a powerful tool this is, what caught my attention particularly was the paragraph:
The researchers were also able to trace the size of the horse population over time by looking for genomic signatures of population size, and were thus able to show that populations grew in periods of abundant grassland, in between times of extreme cold.
|Bwaaahhhaaa! Creationists say what!?|
DNA is acting like a record of a species history on this planet and so of the planet itself, and the scientific theory which integrates it with the rest of science is the Theory of Evolution - one of the most profound, powerful and far-reaching theories in the whole of science. No wonder it so terrifies those who make their living from promoting Bronze-Age superstition and who so need to spread lies and misinformation about science.
Not for them the road to discovery and enlightenment. Far too risky. There's a lot of money at stake.
First horses arose 4 million years ago; Erika Check Hayden; Nature, 26 June 2013
Recalibrating Equus evolution using the genome sequence of an early Middle Pleistocene horse; Orlando, L., et al; Nature, 26 June 2013; doi:10.1038/nature12323
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