In the coming year, some scientists somewhere are going to sequence the genome of some million-year-old creature, the oldest to date, predicts New Scientist.
The magazine expects the sequencing of a million-year-old genome — what ancient animal turns out to be the lucky customer is unknown — will be one of the "10 ideas that will matter next year." In fact, this prediction notches at the top of the magazine's speculative list.
Although Jurassic Park-like, 65 million-year-old dinosaur resurrections may never happen, the rate of advance in ancient genomics studies suggests that the million-year-old genome is on the way. In 2012, a 110,000 year-old polar bear genome was published, making it the oldest so far, but this year saw the publication of the genome of a 700,000 year-old horse.
It may be time to start the betting on just what creature will yield this milestone genome.
"The big prize would be a human ancestor, such as Homo erectus," New Scientist says.
Ancient hominids don't look like promising candidates — DNA is generally better preserved in cold climates, while human-like creatures favor warmer climes — until recently, when a mitochondrial genome of a 400,000 human from a cave in Spain was published. That project proved that if the conditions are right, DNA can be well preserved in warm climates.
Outside of human ancestors, another promising ancient genomics project would be to seek to reconstruct the evolution of Yersinia pestis, the magazine suggests.