Geologically ancient DNA: fact or artefact?

Trends Microbiol. 2005 May;13(5):212-20. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2005.03.010.


Studies continue to report ancient DNA sequences and viable microbial cells that are many millions of years old. In this paper we evaluate some of the most extravagant claims of geologically ancient DNA. We conclude that although exciting, the reports suffer from inadequate experimental setup and insufficient authentication of results. Consequently, it remains doubtful whether amplifiable DNA sequences and viable bacteria can survive over geological timescales. To enhance the credibility of future studies and assist in discarding false-positive results, we propose a rigorous set of authentication criteria for work with geologically ancient DNA.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amber
  • Archaeology
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA / isolation & purification*
  • Fossils*
  • Paleontology


  • Amber
  • DNA