700,000-Year-Old Horse’s DNA Sequenced

The 700,000-year-old stallion is the oldest animal of any species to have its DNA fully sequenced.
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When it comes to mapping equine genomes, researchers’ test horses seem to be getting older: In 2007 it was a 3-year-old gray Thoroughbred marecalled Twilight from New York. In 2012 it was 18-year-old Sugar, a Quarter Horse mare from Texas.

Now in 2013 it’s Thistle Creek, a Middle Pleistocene stallion from the Yukon permafrost near the eastern Alaskan border. He’s roughly 700,000 years old. That makes Thistle Creek—named for the excavation site where his leg bone fragment was discovered—the oldest equine to have its DNA fully sequenced.

And actually, Thistle Creek’s DNA is the oldest DNA of any species to be fully sequenced. The second oldest? 110,000-year-old polar bear DNA.

Ludovic Orlando, PhD, HDR, associate professor in the Centre for GeoGenetics Paleomix Group at the University of Copenhagen’s Natural History Museum of Denmark, led an international team of 56 scientists listed as co-authors of the groundbreaking study

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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