A news site about animals

The Oldest DNA: Mapped from a 700,000-year-old Horse

The humble horse has provided the oldest full genome sequence of any species; from a specimen over half-a-million years old, found frozen in the permafrost of the Canadian Arctic.  The finding, published in Nature today, pushes back the known origins of the equine lineage by about 2 million years, and yields a variety of evolutionary insights and possibilities.

The Przewalski’s horse, recently brought back from the brink of extinction in Mongolia, is truly the last remaining wild horse, suggests the new study.

The sequence was extracted from a foot bone of a horse that lived between 780,000 and 560,000 years ago.  By sequencing the animal’s genome, along with those of a 43,000-year-old horse, five modern domestic horse breeds, a wild Przewalski’s horse and a donkey, researchers were able to trace the evolutionary history of the horse family in unprecedented detail.  They estimate that the ancient ancestor of the modern Equus genus, which includes horses, donkeys and zebras, branched off from other animal lineages about 4 million years ago, twice as long ago as scientists had previously thought.

Two pieces of a 700,000-year-old horse metapodial bone are shown, just before being extracted for ancient DNA.

“We have beaten the time barrier,” says evolutionary biologist Ludovic Orlando of the University of Copenhagen.  Noting that the oldest DNA sequenced before this came from a polar bear between 110,000 and 130,000 years old, Orlando says: “All of a sudden, you have access to many more extinct species than you could have ever dreamed of sequencing before.”

The team was able to sequence such old DNA partly because of the freezing ground temperatures in the area where the bone was found, which would have slowed the rate of DNA decay.


Other researchers go further. Given that ancient human species at times lived in cold climes, the ancient horse gene map raises the possibility of recovering even more ancient human DNA, suggests biologist Craig Millar of New Zealand’s University of Auckland and David Lambert of Australia’s Griffith University, in a commentary on the discovery. The results, they write, raise “the tantalizing proposition that complete genomes several millions of years old may be recoverable.”


One Bedraggled Otter

This bedraggled otter looks like it’s been ridden hard and put away wet*… but in a cute way, of course.  ^_^



*-The phrase, “ridden hard and put away wet” might sound dirty, but it actually refers to the way someone looks or feels when they’ve had a hard time of it.  Originally a term used by cowboys about horses, it means when you ride a horse hard, and it sweats, and you neglect to wipe it down and cool it off before putting it in its stall.  This otter looks like he could use some cooling off.


Happy Ottersday :-)

Moose and Cat


Making her home in Homer, Alaska, Ginger the Cat finds a mother moose and her twins relaxing on her home turf.  Naturally, Ginger goes on the hunt and stalks them, with giggle-inducing results.


Happy Humpday (^_^)

Hitman Monkey

Obviously, this is not an actual monkey murderer, but the timing of this photograph is undeniably perfect….. perfect for murder! Mwahhahahahaha!














Happy Monkday :_)

A Soldier and his Bunnies

When Joshua Bisner, a Marine corpsman living at Camp Pendleton, in California, was raking the volleyball courts near barracks on base, he found four baby rabbits in a hole.  Seeing that their mother was dead, he knew he had to act.

Parental instincts kicked in, and Bisner scooped up the bunnies and helped nurse them back to health, bottle feeding them for about two months before turning them in to a wildlife refuge.

“I grabbed a box, put a few old shirts into it and picked up the bunnies,” he wrote on Reddit. “I researched how to raise them and what to feed them. I made a nice box for them to live in and bottle fed them until I could wean them to eat the local foods.”

He documented his story with Youtube videos and photos, posting them on June 18. The next day, he also posted his story on Reddit, where it soon went viral, garnering nearly 3,000 shares and more than 1,100 comments.

His two Youtube videos have logged 138,000 and 102,000 views respectively, in just three days.  Before giving the bunnies up, he named the them Stevie, Raymond, Vaughn and James.  “It was a lot of hard work,” he said, “but I loved the bunnies.”

Happy Bunday ^_^

Kitty in a Fishbowl


Cats love to lay in containers; their preference for the cardboard box is widely accepted throughout the world.  I offer you a twist: a cat from Russia, who looks to be too big for his spherical, glass fishbowl.


Happy Caturday =^_^=

Graffitied Turtle Rescued

A poor Eastern box turtle was graffitied with nail polish in her home state of Virginia.  Luckily for her, she was rescued by the Wildlife Center of Virginia, where it was discovered that she was carrying five eggs.  Now, she lives a cushy life with humans, who care for her, keep her away from watchful predators, and give her daily shell scrubbings, which will hopefully lead to a happy birth for her eggs.


Happy Humpday (^_^)