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A 17,000-year-old Puma Puo contains the oldest parasite DNA ever discovered



  Puma (Felis concolor) adult vacationer, Montana, USA, October, controlled site

Adult cougar in Montana. New research sheds light on the parasites that afflicted his ancient brethren.


Avalon / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Ancient animal scans share secrets about parasites and animals that they have infected during the Ice Age. Inside the cougar faecal radiocarbon dates between 16 570 and 17,000 years old, scientists have discovered eggs from the parasite Toxascaris leonina, a species of roundworm that continues to chase animals to this day.

A fossilized cougar navel has a few surprises inside.


Cambridge University Press

"This is the oldest record of molecular parasites globally, and it supports the presence of this parasite after the Pleistocene in America," a new study in Parasitology says. "These findings have implications for the biogeographical history of the parasites and for the natural history of the region."

The petrified navel was discovered in a sediment layer inside a rock shelter 3582 meters (11 751 feet) above sea level in Argentina. The tests set fossil feces at the end of the last ice age. Scientists have used DNA tests to determine that their faeces belong to a large species of wild cougar.

The DNA inside the navel is probably well preserved because of the cool temperature inside the rock shelter where the navel is found, as well as high salt concentrations and rapid drying of the navel itself, according to the study.

"Studies show that if the coprolite is preserved in the right environment, we can find eggs and DNA from parasites for many thousands of years," Pierce Mitchell, director of the laboratory for ancient parasites at Cambridge University, told The Guardian. "This will make it easier to outline how different types of parasites develop over time."

Originally posted on August 28, 8:42 am by P. PT.


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