Saturday, September 10, 2005

DNA of Giant Deer and the "Hobbit"

National Geographic News:

A huge Ice Age deer with antlers spanning 10 feet (3.5 meters) has been traced to its closest living relative, thanks to DNA science.

Scientists at University College London studied DNA and skeletal remains of the extinct giant deer, or Irish elk, to construct its family tree. This is the first time this method has been used to reveal an extinct animal's living descendants, according to the study team.

The researchers found that the giant deer, which stood seven feet (two meters) tall at the shoulder, is closely related to the modern fallow deer, a much smaller species that still inhabits the former haunts of its Ice Age relative throughout Europe.

The article continues:

Recent technological advances have raised hopes that scientists may be able to pinpoint our own closest relatives in the human family tree.

Researchers are currently trying to extract the DNA of Homo floresiensis, whose remains were found last year on the island of Flores in Indonesia.

Nicknamed "the Hobbit" because of its tiny stature, H. floresiensis is believed to have diverged from modern humans some two million years ago.

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