Ancient Biomolecules from Deep Ice Cores Reveal a Forested Southern Greenland

Science, Vol. 317, No. 111, doi: 10.1126/science.1141758, 2007

E. Willerslev, M.B. Hebsgaard, T.B. Brand and M. Thomas P. Gilbert
Centre for Ancient Genetics, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
E. Cappellini, K.E.H. Penkman and M.J. Collins
BioArch, Departments of Biology and Archaeology, University of York, UK.
W. Boomsma
Bioinformatics Centre, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
R. Nielsen
Centre for Comparative Genomics, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
M. Hofreiter
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany.
M. Bunce
Murdoch University Ancient DNA Research Laboratory, Murdoch University, Australia and McMaster Ancient DNA Center, McMaster University, Canada.
H.N. Poinar
McMaster Ancient DNA Center, McMaster University, Canada.
D. Dahl-Jensen, S. Johnsen and J.P. Steffensen
Ice and Climate, The Niels Bohr Institute, Juliane Maries Vej 30, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark
O. Bennike
Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, Denmark.
J.-L. Schwenninger and R. Nathan
Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, University of Oxford, UK.
S. Armitage
Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK.
C.-J. de Hoog
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford, UK.
V. Alfimov and M. Christl
Paul Scherrer Institut (PSI)/Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Laboratory for Ion Beam Physics, Institute for Particle Physics, ETH Zurich, Switzerland.
J. Beer
Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (EAWAG), Switzerland.
R. Muscheler
GeoBiosphere Science Center, Lund University, Sweden.
J. Barker and M. Sharp
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, Canada.
J. Haile
Ancient Biomolecules Centre, Oxford University, UK.
P. Taberlet
Laboratoire d'Ecologie Alpine, CNRS Unité Mixte de Recherche 5553, Université Joseph Fourier, Boîte Postale 53, 38041 Grenoble Cedex 9, France.
A. Casoli and E. Campani
Dipartimento di Chimica Generale e Inorganica, Università di Parma, Italy.

It is difficult to obtain fossil data from the 10% of Earth's terrestrial surface that is covered by thick glaciers and ice sheets, and hence, knowledge of the paleoenvironments of these regions has remained limited. We show that DNA and amino acids from buried organisms can be recovered from the basal sections of deep ice cores, enabling reconstructions of past flora and fauna. We show that high-altitude southern Greenland, currently lying below more than 2 kilometers of ice, was inhabited by a diverse array of conifer trees and insects within the past million years. The results provide direct evidence in support of a forested southern Greenland and suggest that many deep ice cores may contain genetic records of paleoenvironments in their basal sections.