What caused the Black Death? What really happened to the Russian Royal Family? Did Anastasia survive the Russian revolution? Could the unnamed victims of the Titanic be returned to their families?
In The DNA Detectives, Anna Meyer provides a fascinating glimpse into one of the newest and most intriguing areas of scientific research.
Any DNA that still exists in the remains of living things after their death is called "ancient DNA." But the death doesn't have to be recent — the DNA could be from an organism that died a few days ago, or from an extinct species, such as the Australian thylacine or the New Zealand moa, or from one that died tens of thousands of years ago, such as a Neanderthal or a mammoth.
That DNA can survive for such a long time is one thing, but there is much more to it than that. The study of ancient DNA has been the key to some amazing discoveries. There's a whole smorgasbord of stories to sample — tales of murder, deadly disease, and mysterious disappearances, and even the origins of human life.
From the Cretaceous period to the mysteries of the last century, the quest for ancient DNA is revolutionizing our picture of the past.