Hunting the Double Helix: How DNA is Solving Puzzles of the Past

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Allen & Unwin, 2005 - DNA - 232 pages
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In this book the author provides a fascinating glimpse into one of the newest and most intriguing areas of scientific research. Any DNA that still exists in the remains of living things after their death is called 'ancient DNA'. But the death doesn't have to be recent - the DNA could be from an organism that died a few days ago, or from an extinct species, such as the Australian thylacine or the New Zealand moa, or from an animal that died in the last Ice Age, such as the mammoth. The study of ancient DNA has been the key to some of the most amazing discoveries. There's a whole smorgasbord of stories to sample - tales of murder, deadly disease, and mysterious disappearances, and even the origins of human life. Could we re-create a mammoth or a thylacine? Could 'Jurassic Park' ever be a reality? Were the Neanderthals our ancestors? What caused the black death? What really happened to the Russian Royal Family? Did Anastasia survive the Russian revolution? Could the unnamed victims of the Titanic be returned to their families? Ancient DNA has been found in a wonderful range of sources, and has been used to answer these and other baffling questions.

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Could extinct animals
Could we really clone a dinosaur?
Unravelling the mysteries of
Searching for the truth behind
Did Anastasia survive
What became
What next for ancient DNA research?

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Page 4 - double helix', with two paired strands wound around each other. A strand consists of a string of four bases: adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G) and cytosine (C).
Page 206 - Tracking the origins of the cave bear ( Ursus spelaeus) by mitochondrial DNA sequencing', PNAS, vol.
Page 207 - Ancient DNA analysis reveals divergence of the cave bear, Ursus spelaeus, and brown bear, Ursus arctos, lineages. Current Biology, 11, 200-3.
Page 115 - Ring a ring o'roses, A pocket full of posies, A-tishoo, a-tishoo, We all fall down.
Page 187 - XVII's name, although his claims had never been proven, nor his true origins ever established. Naundorff had never given up his insistence that he was Louis XVII, even to his own wife and children. On his headstone was placed an inscription which translates as: Here lies Louis XVII, Charles Louis, Due de Normandie, King of France and Navarre, Born at Versailles on March 27, 1785, Died at Delft on August 10, 1845.
Page 106 - ... more closely related to each other than to any other members of the genus.
Page 206 - FK et al. (1995) Selective amplification of a mammoth mitochondrial cytochrome b fragment using an elephant specific primer.
Page 51 - I think this is the most exciting biological project that's going to occur in this millennium.

About the author (2005)

Anna Meyer is currently completing a PhD in Science Communication at the Australian National University's Centre for the Public Awareness of Science. She has an honours degree in Genetics, and is a great fan of popular science books. Anna lives with husband Andrew and her dog Sweep. This is her first book.

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