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A new model for ancient DNA decay based on paleogenomic meta-analysis

By Logan Kistler, Roselyn Ware, Oliver Smith, Matthew Collins, Robin G Allaby

Posted 16 Feb 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/109140 (published DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkx361)

The persistence of DNA over archaeological and paleontological timescales in diverse environments has led to revolutionary body of paleogenomic research, yet the dynamics of DNA degradation are still poorly understood. We analyzed 185 paleogenomic datasets and compared DNA survival with environmental variables and sample ages. We find cytosine deamination follows a conventional thermal age model, but we find no correlation between DNA fragmentation and sample age over the timespans analyzed, even when controlling for environmental variables. We propose a model for ancient DNA decay wherein fragmentation rapidly reaches a threshold, then subsequently slows. The observed loss of DNA over time is likely due to a bulk diffusion process, highlighting the importance of tissues and environments creating effectively closed systems for DNA preservation.

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