Tag: Peter D. Heintzman
Pete attained a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Sheffield, UK, building on a childhood fascination with the history of life. This led him to complete a master’s degree in palaeobiology at the University of Bristol, UK, and a PhD in palaeogenetics at Royal Holloway University of London. His doctoral research focused on the analysis of ancient DNA from arctic beetles. Pete is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he has moved onto bigger things: ice-age bison, horses and mammoths. His current research focuses on using molecular techniques to investigate species’ responses to climatic and environmental changes over the past 100,000 years or so.
By Peter D. Heintzman*1
Deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA for short, is the magical molecule that encodes instructions on how to build organisms, and has been doing so successfully for at least the past 2.5 billion years. Although its function has remained constant throughout this time, the instructions themselves have been slowly modified and upgraded to cope with the changing demands of organisms and the environments in which they live. A modification to DNA is called a mutation, and it is through mutations that we are able to track how organisms have changed, or evolved, through time.
In all multicellular organisms, there are two major types of DNA: mitochondrial (mtDNA) and nuclear (nuDNA) (Fig. 1). These have different histories and can therefore tell us different thing...