Special Issue: From mammoths to Neandertals, ancient DNA unlocks the mysteries of the past

Ancient DNA researchers have succeeded beyond all expectation in retrieving entire genomes from-long dead organisms, and their work is transforming the study of the past, as discussed in Science’s special news package and in the video above. The number of papers in the field is growing exponentially, as researchers from many disciplines realize how much ancient DNA can tell them, creating an explosion of research. The picture of human evolution has been upended, and the DNA found in scoops of ancient soil or ice is allowing researchers to reconstruct entire lost worlds. Although most successes are from cold environs, some researchers are exploring how to tease out ancient DNA from the tropics while a handful of other scientists are probing what may be the next big technology—sequencing ancient proteins. The new generation of researchers faces the intense competition typical of a booming field, yet they also enjoy a wide-open arena of research questions exploring everything from pathogens to plants to humans. 

Ancient DNA package:

(Video credit: Science)