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An analysis of ancient oral microbiome ecology and function, led by the University of Zürich, the University of Copenhagen, and the University of York has discovered a microbiome preserved on the teeth of skeletons around 1,000 years old. The dental calculus preserves bacteria and microscopic particles of food on the surfaces of teeth, effectively creating a mineral tomb for microbiomes.
The research published in Nature Genetics reveals that unlike bone which rapidly loses much of its molecular information when buried, calculus grows slowly in the mouth and enters the soil in a much more stable state helping it to preserve biomolecules. This enabled the researchers, led by Dr Christina Warinner, to analyse ancient DNA that was not compromised by the burial environment.