Ancient plant DNA: review and prospects

New Phytol. 2005 May;166(2):409-18. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2005.01360.x.


Ancient DNA has received much attention since the mid-1980s, when the first sequence of an extinct animal species was recovered from a museum specimen. Since then, the majority of ancient DNA studies have focused predominantly on animal species, while studies in plant palaeogenetics have been rather limited, with the notable exception of cultivated species found in archaeological sites. Here, we outline the recent developments in the analysis of plant ancient DNA. We emphasize the trend from species identification to population-level investigation and highlight the potential and the difficulties in this field, related to DNA preservation and to risks of contamination. Further efforts towards the analysis of ancient DNA from the abundant store of fossil plant remains should provide new research opportunities in palaeoecology and phylogeography. In particular, intraspecific variation should be considered not only in cultivated plants but also in wild taxa if palaeogenetics is to become a fully emancipated field of plant research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution
  • DNA, Plant / analysis*
  • DNA, Plant / genetics
  • Genetic Markers
  • Paleontology / methods
  • Phylogeny
  • Plants / genetics*


  • DNA, Plant
  • Genetic Markers