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Ancient DNA--What Can It Tell Us?

Researchers recently revived ancient bacteria that had been trapped for thousands of years in water droplets embedded in salt crystals. Is this a good idea? This bacteria been found inside salt crystals ranging in age from thousands to hundreds of millions years old.

Researcher J. Koji Lum says, "You have a little trapped ecosystem. Some of these guys are feeding on other ones trapped in this space. The things that aren't alive in there, their DNA is still preserved."

Geologist Tim Lowenstein says, "Not only did we find bacteria, we found several types of algae as well. The algae actually may be the food on which the bacteria survive for tens of thousands of years."

"These are some of the hardiest beasts on the planet,” Lum says. "And the conditions inside these water droplets are ideally suited to preserving DNA." Lowenstein agrees: “They're like time capsules."

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