Mummy DNA Helps Researchers Solve the Riddle of the Nile Crocodile


Extensive DNA detective work tracing the evolutionary history of the Nile crocodile brought researchers affiliated with the American Museum of Natural History a startling solution to a centuries-old mystery: the Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) is actually two distinct species. Conducting the study in the Museum's Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, first authors Evon Hekkala of Fordham University and Matthew Shirley of the University of Florida, and their colleagues, sequenced DNA from 123 Nile crocodiles collected throughout Africa as well as from 57 tissue samples harvested from mummified crocodiles—some of them 2,000 years old—from ancient Egyptian temples.