Ancient biomolecules from deep ice cores reveal a forested southern Greenland

Eske Willerslev, Enrico Cappellini, Wouter Boomsma, Rasmus Nielsen, Martin B. Hebsgaard, Tina B. Brand, Michael Hofreiter, Michael Bunce, Hendrik N. Poinar, Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, Sigfus Johnsen, Jørgen Peder Steffensen, Ole Bennike, Jean Luc Schwenninger, Roger Nathan, Simon Armitage, Cees Jan De Hoog, Vasily Alfimov, Marcus Christl, Juerg BeerRaimund Muscheler, Joel Barker, Martin Sharp, Kirsty E.H. Penkman, James Haile, Pierre Taberlet, M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Antonella Casoli, Elisa Campani, Matthew J. Collins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

346 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-114
Number of pages4
Issue number5834
StatePublished - Jul 6 2007
Externally publishedYes


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