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Hunting the Double Helix

How DNA is solving puzzles of the past

Hunting the Double Helix by Anna Meyer
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Some mysteries were never meant to be solved - or were they?

In Hunting the Double Helix, Anna Meyer 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 one that died tens of thousands of years ago, such as a Neanderthal or a mammoth.

That DNA can survive for such a long time is one thing, but there is much more to it than that. 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.

From the Cretaceous period to the mysteries of the last century, the quest for ancient DNA is revolutionising our picture of the past.

Allen & Unwin; May 2005
240 pages; ISBN 9781741156690
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Title: Hunting the Double Helix
Author: Anna Meyer