Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD)
The Ancient DNA Centre is a major research initiative of the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences and Faculty of Sciences, University of Adelaide, and aims to understand evolution and environmental change through time using preserved genetic records recovered from ancient materials including human and animal bones and teeth, plant remains and sediments. Key interests include the study of evolutionary processes and responses to climate change using genetic, fossil, and biochemical evidence and the application to population genetics, phylogenetics and phylogeography, molecular clocks, epidemiology and a variety of other uses of DNA sequences distributed through time across the world.
Current international projects include the extinctions of megafauna, impacts of climate change over the past 60,000 years, the tempo, mode and history of human evolution, speciation processes and the evolutionary relationships of extinct species such as Ice Age megafauna ranging from mammoth, bison, horses, cave lions and sabre-tooth cats to recently extinct species such as the New Zealand moa, thylacine and Falkland Island wolf.
A major research program is the study of human evolution, and current hominid projects include many populations of ancient modern humans, as well as Neandertals and the Flores hobbits. We are the sole research centre for ancient DNA research in the landmark 'Genographic Project' funded by the National Geographic Society, which is characterising mitochondrial and nuclear markers from over 500,000 individuals in a broad survey of human populations around the world. This project aims to reconstruct the complex and remarkable human journey, out of East Africa and around the world over the past 100,000 years.
Ancient genetic records reveal the negative changes oral bacteria brought about by the dietary shifts as human hunter gatherers became farmers, and later with the introduction of food manufacturing in the Industrial Revolution. An international team, lead by ACAD has published the results in Nature Genetics, showing how human evolution over the last 7500 years has impacted the bacteria we carry, with important health consequences. This study was in collaboration with the Department of Archaeology at the University of Aberdeen and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK. Read more here.
The origins of the Falkland Islands wolf are answered in the latest research findings by ACAD and collaborators in Argentina and Chile. The study suggests ancestors of the Falkland Islands wolf most likely walked to the islands across a frozen, narrow marine strait during the last ice age, about 16,000 years ago. Oceanographic records show that the Falkland Islands were not as isolated from South America as they are today due to lower sea levels. Thus exposing an enormous coastal plain off the Argentine Coast likely to have been periodically frozen over, and allowing the wolf to reach new land. Read more here.