Postprint version. Published in Endeavor, Volume 20, Issue 4, January 1, 1996, pages 162-167.
The definitive version is available at https://doi.org/10.1016/S0160-9327(96)10031-4.
Much of what we know about extinct organisms comes from traits that are not preserved in the fossil record. Until recently, morphological analysis was the only tool available for scientists to determine relationships for extinct fossil organisms. We now know that ‘ancient’ DNA can be preserved in the remains of extinct organisms. By targeting specific gene sequences, it may be possible to deduce biochemical characteristics and through sequence comparisons, to estimate the extent of evolutionary divergence. By comparing the amount and type of these changes, one could estimate how quickly some DNA ‘evolves’ relative to other segments, or which genes have the most flexibility or are more conserved over time. The compilation of these data would yield greater understanding of the physiology of extinct organisms and provide a much clearer picture of genetic change over time, and the mechanics behind ‘evolution’.