Fossil DNA, a Time Machine Preface by Jean Guilaine, professor at the Collège de France Publication date : January 13, 2021
Ludovic Orlando is a paleogeneticist, graduate of the École normale supérieure de Lyon, and head of research at the CNRS. He is the author of the sequencing of the most ancient genome to date, was the first to characterize an ancient epigenome, and has reconstituted the genomic history of the domestication of the horse.
DNA sequencing isn’t of use only to doctors and biologists. It has become an essential tool for paleontologists and archeologists: for it is a true time machine. Ludovic Orlando’s book presents new contributions from genomics to archeology and history: it illuminates human evolution and the evolutionary history of plants and animals, as well as the genealogy of all species in the living world.
This work presents the genesis and development of a very young discipline, and its application to our knowledge of the past. It recounts the history and the rise in power of genetic sequencing, which adds new and decisive resources to the existing toolkits in archeology and paleontology: Denisovans, for example, were discovered using genetic methods from a phalanx fragment, which has revolutionized our knowledge of our species’ past.
Throughout the book, issues are illuminated by scientific examples which are equally moments from the researcher’s own biography. Its conclusion touches upon wider horizons and a philosophical dimension, showing how science is anchored in the reality of our time. It looks at the political (mis)use of the discoveries of genomics, such as a confrontational disappointment to white supremacists when they discovered that Cheddar Man, an emblematic ancestor of the British, had rather black skin… and many other instances. Ludovic Orlando takes us on a dazzling scientific adventure, to the ends of the world and into the depths of time.