The realisation in the 1980s that DNA is sometimes preserved in very ancient biological specimens opened up a new field of research within evolutionary biology.
Ancient DNA can be seen as a time machine that opens up a window to the past, enabling us to trace molecular evolutionary processes through time and space.
Although the questions that can be answered by studying ancient DNA are limited by the degree of DNA preservation, it can be a very important and powerful source of information.
For example, it allows us to:
Ancient DNA analysis is being increasingly incorporated into research addressing questions relating to:
Ancient DNA can be described as any DNA extracted from ancient biological specimens, such as archaeological bones, teeth or other tissue.
Ancient DNA can derive from a wide spectrum of sources, including: