University of Leicester eBulletin

World's Oldest DNA?

May 2002
No 104


Researchers believe they have found traces of 425-million-year-old bacterial DNA in rock salt of the same vintage.

The problems of dating ancient DNA mean that previous studies have struggled to work out whether or not microorganisms had been incorporated into such rocks at a later date.  William D Grant of the University of Leicester, and colleagues, used advanced geochemical and microbiological techniques to analyse minute samples of the desiccated remains of ancient seas from 11 to 425 million years old, as they report in this week's Nature.

They find evidence of different populations of microorganisms in salt deposits of different ages, giving them a much better idea of which bacteria are likely to have been incorporated when.

Note to Newsdesk: William D Grant: tel +44 116 252 2948, email 

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