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Ancient Biomolecules and Evolutionary Inference

Authors
  • Cappellini, Enrico
  • Prohaska, Ana
  • Racimo, Fernando
  • Welker, Frido
  • Pedersen, Mikkel Winther
  • Allentoft, Morten E.
  • de Barros Damgaard, Peter
  • Gutenbrunner, Petra
  • Dunne, Julie
  • Hammann, Simon
  • Roffet-Salque, Mélanie
  • Ilardo, Melissa
  • Moreno-Mayar, J. Víctor
  • Wang, Yucheng
  • Sikora, Martin
  • Vinner, Lasse
  • Cox, Jürgen
  • Evershed, Richard P.
  • Willerslev, Eske
Type
Published Article
Journal
Annual Review of Biochemistry
Publisher
Annual Reviews
Publication Date
Jun 20, 2018
Volume
87
Pages
1029–1060
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1146/annurev-biochem-062917-012002
Source
Annual Reviews
Keywords
License
Green

Abstract

Over the past three decades, studies of ancient biomolecules—particularly ancient DNA, proteins, and lipids—have revolutionized our understanding of evolutionary history. Though initially fraught with many challenges, today the field stands on firm foundations. Researchers now successfully retrieve nucleotide and amino acid sequences, as well as lipid signatures, from progressively older samples, originating from geographic areas and depositional environments that, until recently, were regarded as hostile to long-term preservation of biomolecules. Sampling frequencies and the spatial and temporal scope of studies have also increased markedly, and with them the size and quality of the data sets generated. This progress has been made possible by continuous technical innovations in analytical methods, enhanced criteria for the selection of ancient samples, integrated experimental methods, and advanced computational approaches. Here, we discuss the history and current state of ancient biomolecule research, its applications to evolutionary inference, and future directions for this young and exciting field.

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