The most ancient DNA ever sequenced reveals what the Arctic looked like two million years ago when it was warmer, the BBC reports.
Today the area in North Greenland is a polar desert, but the genetic material, extracted from soil, has uncovered a rich array of plants and animals.
The scientists found genetic traces of elephant-like mastodons, reindeer and geese that roamed among birch and poplar trees, and of marine life including horseshoe crabs and algae.
The research is published in Nature.
Prof Eske Willerslev, who carried out the study, from the University of Copenhagen and the University of Cambridge said that this mixture of Arctic and temperate species living side by side has no modern equivalent.
The research was conducted in an area called the Kap København Formation, which is in the northernmost part of Greenland.
Until now, it’s been hard to turn back the clock and see what this region was like two million years ago. Animal fossils from this period are extremely rare there.