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We Sequenced the Oldest Ever DNA From Million-Year-Old Mammoths




Most people think of mammoths as the iconic woolly species from the last ice age, which ended around 12,000 years ago. But mammoths originated in Africa around five million years ago, then spread and diversified across Eurasia and North America.

About a million years ago there was one known species of mammoth inhabiting Siberia, the steppe mammoth. This was thought to be the ancestor of later species such as the woolly and Columbian mammoths. But was it?

In a new study, we show mammoth DNA as old as 1.2 million years can be recovered from remains found in permafrost deposits. By sequencing this DNA—studying the make up of its genetic information—we found a lineage of mammoths never described before, the hybrid origin of a mammoth species, and more.

Sequencing Million-Year-Old DNA

Back in 2017, we received samples from extremely old mammoth teeth that had been frozen in time in Siberian permafrost. A few days later, our colleague Patrícia Pečnerová was heading into the lab with a clear job—to extract DNA from some of the oldest known mammoth samples. She succeeded.

Some weeks later, we were looking at millions of DNA sequences that undoubtedly matched the African savannah elephant genome, the model we use to assemble the jigsaw puzzle of each mammoth genome we sequence. Pečnerová built some quick phylogenetic trees—like a family tree for the evolution of mammoths—and showed them to us. It was not quite a “Eureka!” moment like in the movies, but close.

It took a long time to make sure these sequences were actually very old mammoth DNA. For example, ancient DNA shows a characteristic, well-known pattern of chemical damage. While this can cause trouble for some genetic analyses, it also helps disentangle true ancient DNA from modern contaminants, which don’t show such a pattern. Our mammoth sequences did show the expected pattern.

The DNA sequences also had another characteristic of very old DNA—they were extremely fragmented. Instead of the longer DNA sequences found in younger, better preserved mammoth samples from the permafrost, we only had short ones.

This caused another problem, because shorter sequences are increasingly difficult to place in their correct position of the genome. They can also be confused with contamination. To avoid this we had to discard all the sequences below a certain length threshold, which was painful but necessary.

Woolly mammoth tusk in Siberia. Image Credit: Love Dalén, author provided

Lost Lineages and Hybrid Origins

We tried to put our samples in the context of all known mammoth species. Our results clearly indicated the 1.1 million-year-old specimen—which we named Adycha—was ancestral to the woolly mammoths. But placing the lineage of another sample, dating to 1.2 million years ago, which we named Krestovka, proved to be much more difficult. It sometimes seemed closely related to the Columbian mammoth, sometimes to the woolly mammoth.

It took several genetic analyses and hours of discussion and whiteboard drawing to finally uncover the reason for this. The Columbian mammoth had a hybrid origin—not just one ancestor lineage, but two.

Our results paint a picture in which roughly half of the ancestry of the Columbian mammoth could be traced to the Krestovka lineage and the other half to the woolly mammoth lineage.

This could finally explain a long-lasting mammoth mystery, why all Columbian mammoths sequenced so far had mitochondrial genomes—genetic information entirely inherited from an animal’s mother—closely related to those of woolly mammoths. Now, we think the Columbian mammoths likely obtained their mitochondria by reproducing with woolly mammoth females.

Love Dalén and Patrícia Pečnerová with a mammoth tusk. Image Credit: Gleb Danilov, author provided

Evolution: Caught in the Act

If we were to ask what makes a woolly mammoth a woolly mammoth, most people would refer to their furriness. But there are also many other characteristic adaptations of the woolly mammoth to arctic environments such as increased fat deposits, higher tolerance for cold temperatures, modified circadian rhythms and more. We looked at how many of those adaptations we could find already existing more than one million years ago. Surprisingly, we found a majority of these adaptations were already present in the genome of Adycha.

We think this finding could have wide implications in the study of how species evolve. There’s an open question in evolutionary biology, whether the rate of adaptation is accelerated during a speciation event—when populations become separate species—or if it’s a more gradual process.

Our data support the latter scenario, where there is no evidence of faster natural selection acting during the origin of the woolly mammoth. And most adaptations characteristic of the woolly mammoth were already present in its ancestral species that roamed the Siberian steppe over a million years ago.

Where’s the Limit?

Until now, the oldest DNA sequenced belonged to a horse specimen dated to between 560,000 and 780,000 years old and recovered from the permafrost deposits of Thistle Creek in the Yukon, Canada.

Our million-year-old mammoth samples share a crucial characteristic with the Thistle Creek horse, they were preserved in subzero permafrost deposits. Frozen at death, or soon thereafter, the degradation of the DNA molecules in these remains was slowed down for hundreds of thousands of years until we recovered and sequenced them.

We think permafrost preserved material holds the promise of even older DNA. However, since the oldest permafrost deposits are dated to the Early Pleistocene—around 2.6 million years ago—this may, sadly, put an upper limit on what is possible.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Banner Image Credit: Beth Zaiken/Centre for Palaeogenetics, author provided


Artificial Intelligence

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Importance of Gamma Exposure and How to Trade Volatility




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6 Best Artificial Intelligence Apps Making Human Lives Easier




It is no secret that Artificial Intelligence (AI) has gained a lot of popularity and taken the world by storm. Past studies have revealed that the global market of AI is predicted to reach from US$29.82 billion in 2019 to US$252.01 billion in 2025, growing at a CAGR of 42.7 percent.

“Research by Gartner identified that in the next few years, every application or service will incorporate AI at some level. ” 

Due to its benefits, AI is being used in different business functions and fields, including marketing, operations, finance, etc. 

Besides this, AI allows computers to extract valuable insights from large volumes of data, thereby helping perform complex tasks with ease. Moreover, AI-based apps have not only facilitated organizations, but have made human lives a lot easier. For example, rule-based automation and machine learning have simplified many routine jobs.   

Apart from business applications, AI has now gained popularity in the real world scenario and is being increasingly used in web-based and mobile applications. And for this reason, AI-enabled apps are being increasingly embedded in mobile operating systems that are available in the market.

We have created a list of the 6 best Artificial Intelligence apps that are making human lives easier. 

#1 Google Assistant 

The first one on our list is none other than the famous Google Assistant, which is an AI-driven virtual app generally available on smart home devices and mobile phones. The good thing about this AI app is that it supports different languages. This gives users a chance to interact with the app by using their mother tongue. 

Apart from this, the Google Assistant can perform all the possible tasks that can make your life easy and hassle-free. Not sure which ones? Have a look at the list below:

  • It can access the required information from your calendar. 
  • It can look up for information online, such as restaurant bookings, weather updates, etc. 
  • It can play your favorite music for you. 
  • It facilitates in making appointments and sending messages. 
  • It can open different apps on your phone or other smart devices. 

#2 Ada – Healthcare in Your Hand

Ada is another AI-based app that has a clean and interactive user interface and it helps you in understanding what are you suffering from. This app works like any other doctor’s appointment as you are required to share your basic details first and then details regarding the symptoms.

Based on the information that you provide, it prepares a medical report regarding your current condition, which includes a summary, potential causes, etc. You can also share that report as a PDF with your doctor or any medical expert for further diagnosis. 

Besides this, Ada is an accessible health advisor which is powered by a smart Artificial Intelligence engine. The good thing about this app is that it considers all important patient information, such as past medical history, risk factors, and more. And after gathering this data, it leverages machine learning and AI to provide accurate feedback.

#3 Hookt

Another one on our list is Hookt which is a platform that facilitates in chatting, making friends with people who share common interests. So, if you are somebody who is fond of making new friends in your area or while traveling, you should try the Hookt app. 

All in all, it is crucial to note that sometimes apps ask you to share your personal information, thus increasing the likelihood of scams. A study carried out by Business Insider revealed that 1 out of every 10 adults falls prey to a scam each year in the US. 

Therefore, you should be well aware of how to detect a fraud or scam as this can save your money. For instance, previously, many Vodafone users reported that they had to pay for the airG chat service even when they didn’t subscribe for it. However, airG was fast enough to identify this airG spam and took corrective actions immediately. Since not everyone is as responsible and authentic as airG, you should be beware. 

#4 Socratic 

AI and Robotics have not only revolutionized the way businesses are run, instead they are helping improve educational standards at schools considerably.  

“Socratic is one of the most popular AI-based apps for iOS and Android that helps students with their homework.” 

This app provides educational and informative resources, such as explanatory videos, definitions, etc. To use this app, users are required to take a photo of their homework, and then the app provides them with solutions and principles that can help solve the problems. 

The best thing about this app is that it is not subject-specific, instead, it provides help regarding different subjects, including Chemistry, English, Economics, Math, and Science. 

#5 YVA

YVA is a cloud-based app that is widely used in many different organizations. This app leverages AI for evaluating the performance of employees. Apart from this, YVA can be connected to instant messengers and corporate mail, thereby making it a one-stop solution. 

Another good thing about this app is that it conducts regular employee surveys, and analyzes the received information. This helps send the required warnings to employees and managers. Besides this, YVA helps prevent conflicts in teams, as it recognizes the competencies, like strengths, weaknesses, and leadership qualities of each employee. 

#6 Juke Deck

Juke Deck leverages the full potential of AI-based technologies for creating music tracks of different genres. However, the users of this app are required to identify the initial parameters of the composition, including the genre, tempo, duration, mood, etc. Once these variables are finalized, the Create Track Buttons helps process the track. 

The good thing is that you can either listen to the music that you have composed in a browser or download it on your computer. Revisions to the processed track can be done easily as well. Apart from this, Juke Deck does not ask for royalties, therefore you can use the work created as you wish. For example, you can post your created tracks on social media or YouTube. 

The Final Words 

In a nutshell, Artificial Intelligence has completely revolutionized the way we live and has made our lives a lot more convenient, on both – a personal and professional level. Therefore, you should try the above-mentioned AI-powered apps and enjoy their benefits.

The post 6 Best Artificial Intelligence Apps Making Human Lives Easier appeared first on Aiiot Talk – Artificial Intelligence | Internet of Things | Technology.

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