“Researchers have tried unsuccessfully to isolate DNA from a fossil eggshell for years,” said Charlotte Oskam at Murdoch University in Western Australia, who authored the research.
“It just turned out that they were using a method designed for bone that was not suitable for a fossil eggshell.”
The team has obtained DNA from the shells of a variety of species, most notably the elephant bird Aepyornis , which at half a tonne was heaviest bird to have ever existed.
Aepyornis looked like an outsized ostrich, standing three metres tall; most of them died out 1,000 years ago.
Archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson at the University of Sheffield hopes that an analysis of the bird’s DNA will shed more light on why the bird became extinct.