Reid Ferring, a Professor Emeritus in UNT's Department of Geography and the Environment, is part of an international team of more than 40 prominent scientists from different specialties who have developed a breakthrough method of identifying the sex and species of animals in fossils more than a million years old.
"This is very exciting because our current method for determining sex and species -- examination of extracted DNA -- was limited to approximately 200,000 years. Through palaeoproteomics, the study of ancient proteins, we can now look back over a million years," Ferring says.
Ferring believes that palaeoproteomics will prove to be the key for establishing the evolutionary line between the earliest hominids and modern man. The reason, he says, is that proteins like collagen, which is found in tendons, ligaments, skin, bone and teeth, last much longer than DNA in fossilized material.
He says the team was able to sample collagen from 1.7 million-year-old fossilized animal teeth and determine they belonged to a Stephanorhinus, an extinct form of rhinoceros.