Real lifeJurassic Park!
DNA from insects trapped in resin has been found. For the first time, a research team has succeeded in extracting genetic material from insects trapped in resin.
The DNA – especially that of animals that are already extinct – is an important tool for identifying species! So far however, researchers have bitten their teeth on this. They failed because of the million-year-old inclusions in amber, because recent environmental influences changed or destroyed the genome of the insects too much. Specimens embedded in resin were therefore considered unsuitable for genetic testing.
But now, the researchers around Mónica Solórzano-Kraemer and the first authors David Peris and Kathrin Janssen have extracted the genetic material of insects from six and two year old resin. In the future, the researchers would like to use their new method for older inclusions as well.
Insects trapped in resin, whose genetic makeup is to be extracted for research purposes – inevitably appear here in most of the memories of the movie blockbuster “Jurassic Park”.
“But we have no plans to breed dinosaurs.” Laughs Solórzano-Kraemer from the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, and continues: “In our current study, we rather wanted to find out in a structured way how long the DNA of insects can be preserved in resinous inclusions.”
For this purpose, first author Dr. David Peris from the University of Bonn, the Frankfurt amber researcher and researchers from the Universities of Barcelona and Bergen and the Geominero Museum (IGME) in Valencia, are investigating the genetic makeup of so-called ambrosia beetles, which were trapped in the resin of trees from Madagascar.
“With our study, we wanted to fundamentally clarify whether DNA from insects that are trapped in the resin is preserved. We were able to prove exactly this for the six and two year old resins from Madagascar, which we examined using the polymerase chain reaction method (PCR).”
It is still unclear how long the DNA can stay in the resins – here the method is to be used step by step from the youngest to the oldest samples in order to be able to determine the “best before date” of the DNA in the resin.
“Our experiments show that water remains in the inclusions much longer than we previously thought. This could also have an impact on the stability of the genetic makeup. The extraction of functional DNA from million-year-old amber therefore seems rather unlikely.”