A paleogenomic perspective on evolution and gene function: new insights from ancient DNA.
The publication of partial and complete paleogenomes within the last few years has reinvigorated research in ancient DNA. No longer limited to short fragments of mitochondrial DNA, inference of evolutionary processes through time can now be investigated from genome-wide data sampled as far back as 700,000 years. Tremendous insights have been made, in particular regarding the hominin lineage. With rare exception, however, a paleogenomic perspective has been mired by the quality and quantity of recoverable DNA. Though conceptually simple, extracting ancient DNA remains challenging, and sequencing ancient genomes to high coverage remains prohibitively expensive for most laboratories. Still, with improvements in DNA isolation and declining sequencing costs, the taxonomic and geographic purview of paleogenomics is expanding at a rapid pace. With improved capacity to screen large numbers of samples for those with high proportions of endogenous ancient DNA, paleogenomics is poised to become a key technology to better understand recent evolutionary events.