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Premier To Open World-Leading Research Unit

Professor Alan Cooper...heading up a world-leading ancient DNA facility in Adelaide.
by Staff Writers
Los Angeles (SPX) Aug 23, 2006
A new, world-leading research unit which traces genetic information from more than 100,000 years ago, will be officially opened by the South Australian Premier, Mike Rann, this Thursday, 24 August at the University of Adelaide. The Australian Centre for Ancient DNA will train a new generation of Australian scientists, using revolutionary techniques to extract ancient genetic material from bones, plants and soils.

The Centre will help answer some of the most important questions about environmental and evolutionary change in the southern hemisphere.

Professor Alan Cooper, who was recruited from the University of Oxford in 2005 to head up the Centre at the University of Adelaide, says the facility will put Australia on the international map for ancient DNA research.

"We will use ancient DNA to examine the environmental impacts of climate change and human migrations over the past 50,000 years," Professor Cooper says.

The Centre has just secured an international coup, signing a contract with the National Geographic Society to provide ancient DNA information for 'The Genographic Project'. The project is a major international five-year study to measure male and female genetic markers from human populations around the world to reveal our collective history of evolution, migration and dispersal.

"This exciting project places the Centre at the forefront of international ancient DNA research and the results will revolutionise our understanding of human evolution and diversity," Professor Cooper says. "Ancient DNA allows us to determine exactly when and where ancient populations were at a given time."

Researchers at the Centre have also been working with Indonesian and Australian archaeologists to search for traces of DNA in the teeth of the recently-discovered and controversial Flores hominids, or "hobbits," who lived on the Indonesian island Flores until around 12,000 years ago. "DNA would definitively show whether these specimens were simply unusual modern humans, or a completely separate species," Professor Cooper says.

The Centre will use ancient DNA to provide a detailed record of the impacts of past climate changes on animal and plant populations, to provide critical information about the likely impacts of current and future changes.

Related Links
More at Adelaide

No Hobbits In This Shire
Union Town PA (SPX) Aug 22, 2006
The skeletal remains found in a cave on the island of Flores, Indonesia, reported in 2004, do not represent a new species as then claimed, but some of the ancestors of modern human pygmies who live on the island today, according to an international scientific team.

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