Beth Shapiro Unlocks the Mysteries of Woolly Mammoths

Beth Shapiro

Evolutionary biologist and PopTech 2010 Science Fellow Beth Shapiro is fascinated by woolly mammoths.

In particular, she wants to know why the brown bear lives while giant beaver became extinct. She does this by extracting the DNA sequences from the bones of long-extinct animals. They’re often only gene fragments, but they’re enough to let Shapiro trace the evolution, and extinction, of a species.

Although there are numerous challenges to extracting ancient DNA (researchers have failed to get DNA from dinosaurs, or from insects encased in amber) Shapiro’s cutting-edge DNA research is helping us make informed decisions about how to preserve the species that are currently under threat.

(Photo credit: Kris Krüg)

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