From Discovery News:
Fossilized Eggshells Yield DNA
These ancient DNA samples could open the door to cloning long-extinct species.
Tue Mar 9, 2010 07:01 PM ET
Eggshell Stained with DNA
* For the first time, scientists have successfully extracted DNA from fossilized eggshells.
* Since many of the eggshells belonged to extinct birds, it may now be possible to learn more about mysterious prehistoric species.
* Eggs retrieved from cold climates could lead to recovery of very ancient DNA.
In a scientific breakthrough that opens a window to now-extinct animals from the prehistoric past, researchers have just successfully recovered DNA from several fossilized eggshells collected from Australia, New Zealand and Madagascar, according to a new study in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
While dinosaur eggs remain a challenge, the scientists have already collected DNA for the largest bird that ever lived — the elephant bird Aepyornis — that stood around 10 feet tall and weighed around 880 pounds. Attempts to retrieve DNA from elephant bird bone previously failed, so eggshells may prove to be a more reliable source.
In the future, everything from prehistoric penguin eggshells to those of tiny birds could be mined for DNA, particularly since few research limitations seem to exist. …
“We were able to obtain DNA from both thin (duck) and thick (elephant bird) eggshells, which suggests that thickness may not play a significant role in the recovery of DNA from eggshells,” lead author Charlotte Oskam told Discovery News.
“Furthermore, we were able to isolate DNA from eggshells from three countries, each with very different climate conditions,” added Oskam, a researcher at Murdoch University’s Ancient DNA Lab.
She and her colleagues obtained DNA from extinct moas and ducks from New Zealand, extinct elephant birds from Madagascar, and an emu and owl from Australia. The oldest eggshell belonged to an emu that lived 19,000 years ago.
Thinnest eggs belonged to largest Moas: here.
Moa eggs incubated by dads: The extinct moa had unusual incubating techniques: here.
Early Penguin Fossils, Plus Mitochondrial Genomes, Calibrate Avian Evolution: here.