Sacramento kids love National DNA Day and are preparing this month for next month’s celebration. What projects are your kids doing in school for National DNA Day? One topic getting lots of attention in Sacramento is what’s happening regarding genetically modified foods. Another topic is ancient DNA, particularly of ancient and prehistoric foods eaten by humans and why wisdom teeth began to be looked at as obsolete.
Did you ever wonder what food people or animals ate 32,000 years ago–before or during the last ice age? Check out articles such as Why Did Ancient Britons Stop Eating Fish? And read the article, Ancient Popcorn Found Made 2,000 Years Earlier Than Thought in Peru. Kids are curious to learn that people on Peru’s coast were making popcorn 6,700 years ago. Check out the photos of the World Celebration Foods — National Geographic.
If you’re interested in an article on genetically modified foods, check out, What’s black and white and loved all over? National DNA Day is April 20, 2012. What’s happening in Sacramento related to DNA testing? See, Old Crimes Solved With New Technology – ABC News. “They can’t change their DNA,” said Sacramento District Attorney Jan Scully.
Check out the national DNA index system, which can be checked against crime scene evidence. There’s an idea for a school project related to DNA. Another idea can be linked to DNA-driven family history.
As of January, more than 1.2 million profiles were stored in in the national DNA index system, which can be checked against crime scene evidence. And the government still wants to catalog up to 1 million more criminals.
California now has a DNA database of more than 200,000 people, the largest of any state. And it’s beginning to pay off. Cold cases are being solved at the rate of one a day, according to the article, Old Crimes Solved With New Technology – ABC News.
What Topics are Hot in Sacramento for National DNA Day?
Your children may be interested to know that diet changes made wisdom teeth used less–actually obsolete by the use of more starchy diets and cooked foods which allowed people to chew less. There are lots of alternatives for projects and topics to discuss about what scientists are doing when it comes to food and ancient DNA compared to modern DNA of either food, plants, or people and their diets.
See the article, Changes In Ancient Humans’ Diet Made Wisdom Teeth Obsolete. You might also enjoy an article on Street Foods or an International Foods Quiz — National Geographic. How about a World Celebration Foods; Your Food Photos or the World’s Best Picnic Spots? Also check out Food Journeys of a Lifetime.
Children enjoy reading about the anthropology and history of nutrition when it’s made real and relates to their everyday favorite foods as they learn which foods are healthiest for them. A 2011 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences sheds light on why human beings have wisdom teeth. The culprit seems to be the evolution of the human diet.
Physical anthropologist Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel looked at skull specimens from 11 populations around the world and compared those groups that obtained their food through hunting and gathering with those whose diet was based on agriculture. She found that the hunter-gatherers had longer, narrower jawbones that were well-adapted for chewing hard substances — and roomy enough for wisdom teeth. The latter group, which ate more starches and cooked foods, chewed less and developed shorter, smaller jaws with less space for an extra set of molars.
One topic kids might enjoy learning about is how seeds thousands of years old have been cultivated, grow, and produce seeds of there own after being hidden or frozen for tens of thousands of years. For example, a 32,000 year old flowering plant with white petals was brought back to life when the seeds of that plant sprouted and grew into another flowering plant.
See the February 21, 2012 article by Rachel Kaufman for National Geographic News , “32,000-Year-Old Plant Brought Back to Life—Oldest Yet.” This accomplishment may help scientists preserve seeds for the future. Check out the study published in the February issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The oldest plant ever to be regenerated has been grown from 32,000-year-old seeds—beating the previous recordholder by some 30,000 years. (Related: “‘Methuselah’ Tree Grew From 2,000-Year-Old Seed.”) According to the article, A Russian team discovered a seed cache of Silene stenophylla, a flowering plant native to Siberia, that had been buried by an Ice Age squirrel near the banks of the Kolyma River (map). Radiocarbon dating confirmed that the seeds were 32,000 years old.
Perhaps because the seed had been frozen in Siberian ice 124 feet below the permafrost, the cold preserved the seed’s ability to germinate and sprout into a new flowering plant. The photo of the plant can be seen online at the National Geographic Daily News website. Some of the seeds were mature and other seeds were immature.
Beside the seeds also were frozen bones of mammoth, bison, and woolly rhinoceros that lived 32,000 years ago. What scientists were able to do is the find a way to let the immature seeds grow, even though the mature seeds and been damaged by animals, actually squirrels where the seeds lay in the animal’s burrow.
To get the seeds to sprout, scientists extracted that tissue from the frozen seeds, placed it in vials, and successfully germinated the plants, according to a new study. The plants—identical to each other but with different flower shapes from modern S. stenophylla—grew, flowered, and, after a year, created seeds of their own. You can read more about the study. Also check out the Committee for Research and Exploration.
The important point from a scientific point of view is that permafrost could hold an ancient gene pool from before and during the last ice age. Extinct species of plants could be regenerated, if their seeds still have tissue inside them that scientists can germinate.
Before the 32,000 year old seed managed to sprout and create its own seeds, the oldest seed sprouted was only 2,000 years old. And that was a date palm tree seed that had been preserved in a dry area in the Middle East that had a totally different climate from Siberian permafrost. The date palm seed was sprouted by the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies.
When you look at the flower seed that regenerated from being frozen in permafrost, there in Siberia, the temperature remained at 19 degrees F. for thousands of years. If you want to research organizations that save plant seeds, check out Norway’s so-called doomsday vault, aka the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (see pictures)—depend on freezing seeds. Also for related information on similar topics check out National Geographic Library’s twice-weekly news rundown, EarthCurrent.