Paleontologists have found traces of DNA in a 6-million-year-old fossil of a sea turtle. The discovery, one of the rare occasions in which genetic material has been identified in such ancient fossils of a vertebrate, has been described in an 11-page article in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
The remains of a partially preserved shell of the ‘Lepidochelys’ turtle were found in excavations in 2015 on the Caribbean coast of Panama and are the oldest evidence of its existence.
The main author of the study, Edwin Cadena, professor at the Universidad del Rosario (Bogotá, Colombia) and associate researcher at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, told Reuters that they have not extracted DNA, but only identified the presence of their traits. in the nuclei.
By finding preserved bone cells – osteocytes – the researchers discovered that in some of them the cell nuclei were preserved, which responded to a chemical solution that allows the presence of DNA remains to be recognized.
The turtle was about 30 centimeters long and lived in the current territory of Panama during the Upper Miocene, when the planet was cooling and becoming drier, with falling sea levels, little rain and the accumulation of ice at the poles. .
“Within the entire fossil record of vertebrates on the planet, this had only been previously reported in two dinosaur fossils, including one of ‘Tyrannosaurus rex’,” Cadena pointed out, in reference to the discovery of the DNA remains. With RT