Prehistoric Puma Poo Contains Oldest DNA Parasite Ever Recorded.
Just recently, scientists were able to discover the oldest DNA of a parasite to be ever recorded, conveniently tucked in the fossilized remains of puma droppings and aged 17,000 years old.
Gnarled and almost knobbly looking, the specimen proved that pumas were already around strolling in the Andes around the turn of the last Ice Age. Not only that, but the scientists behind the discovery also said that this proves (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/aug/27/oldest-parasite-dna-yet-recorded-found-in-prehistoric-puma-poo) these animals were already suffering from parasites like roundworms a long time before humans ever contracted them , or existed in the first place.
"The common interpretation that the presence of [this roundworm parasite] in modern American wild carnivores is a consequence of their contact with domestic dogs or cats should no longer be assumed as the only possible explanation," the scientists wrote in the study, which was published in the journal Parasitology.
Per the findings, the ancient puma poo (called coprolite) was found in a sedimentary layer within a rock shelter 3,582m above sea level in the cactus-studded sierra-filled Catamarca province of Argentina.
Besides pumas however, the rock face was also filled with other animals, all of which lived in together during the planet's Pleistocene age. This includes ancient horses, giant sloths and even camelids.
To analyze the ancient parasite's DNA, the team rehydrated the coprolite to retrieve the parasite's eggs, after which they then proceeded to isolate the DNA from them. However, because time has already broken down the DNA inside, the scientists decided to take data from the mitochondria, which are the cells' tiny "powerhouses." DNA taken from these is reportedly shorter yet more abundant than the one usually found in chromosomes.
According to the scientists, the eggs were from the parasite Toxascaris leonina, identified by the size and shape of its eggs. The roundworm parasite still exist today in animals. Per the scientists, the cool temperatures inside the rock might have been instrumental in preserving the DNA in the coprolite.
"The research shows that if the coprolite is preserved in the right environment, we can detect eggs and DNA from parasites many thousands ofA years old," Dr Piers Mitchell, the director of the ancient parasites laboratory at the University of Cambridge, said.