Searching for DNA

The ability to retrieve DNA from ancient materials and museum specimens has given archaeologists and anthropologists hope of a glimpse at ancient life. Biochemists have successfully obtained DNA from extinct animals and plants. Evolutionary biologists have used the DNA to draw lineage patterns from the data. This often gives a better understanding of relationships between species. DNA isolated from ancient humans has been used to trace the movements of populations, such as the Anglo-Saxons, as well as to determine whether males were favored over females in certain societies.

Studies have also been performed on human origins by using the DNA found in the mitochondria. All of an offspring’s mitochondrial DNA is derived from its mother. Because this DNA represents an unbroken line of genetic information, an analysis of mutation sites in the mitochondrial DNA can conceivably lead one back to the first human female.