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The past decade has witnessed a revolution in ancient DNA (aDNA) research. Although the field's focus was previously limited to mitochondrial DNA and a few nuclear markers, whole genome sequences from the deep past can now be retrieved. This breakthrough is tightly connected to the massive sequence throughput of next generation sequencing platforms and the ability to target short and degraded DNA molecules. Many ancient specimens previously unsuitable for DNA analyses because of extensive degradation can now successfully be used as source materials. Additionally, the analytical power obtained by increasing the number of sequence reads to billions effectively means that contamination issues that have haunted aDNA research for decades, particularly in human studies, can now be efficiently and confidently quantified. At present, whole genomes have been sequenced from ancient anatomically modern humans, archaic hominins, ancient pathogens and megafaunal species. Those have revealed important functional and phenotypic information, as well as unexpected adaptation, migration and admixture patterns. As such, the field of aDNA has entered the new era of genomics and has provided valuable information when testing specific hypotheses related to the past.
|Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
|Number of pages
|Published - 2015
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