DNA is the key to understanding life. In many cases, genes – specific sequences of DNA – are the starting point to develop better medicines, solve crimes, improve crops, manage conservation, and much more. Take giraffes, the tallest animals on Earth. They have a complicated evolutionary history. Scientists are still figuring out how different giraffe populations are related and how many species there are – which will guide efforts to protect them. Biologist Laura Bertola shares what she learned from giraffe DNA.

In this newsletter, we share a selection of articles about how researchers in different fields are using DNA studies. These include: a study that changes everything we knew about the evolutionary history of modern elephants, a DNA recovery technique which could help women bring rapists to justice and a look at how genetically modified mosquitoes could help in the fight against malaria.

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Wale Fatade

Commissioning Editor: Nigeria

How many giraffe species are there? Understanding this is key to their protection

Laura Bertola, Leiden University

Giraffes show remarkable genetic differences between populations.

Ancient DNA changes everything we know about the evolution of elephants

Julien Benoit, University of the Witwatersrand

DNA studies reveal that African elephants belong to a very successful and widespread family.

How genetically modifying mosquitoes could strengthen the world’s war on malaria

Shüné Oliver, National Institute for Communicable Diseases; Jaishree Raman, National Institute for Communicable Diseases

Methods that don’t rely on insecticides are needed to bolster the fight against mosquito-borne diseases.

Genetically modified crops may be a solution to hunger - why there is scepticism in Africa

Ademola Adenle, Technical University of Denmark

Genetically modified crops are increasing yield and food security in developed countries, but in Africa, a lack of adoption is limiting success.

Ancient DNA unearths fascinating secrets. But what about the ethics?

Alan G Morris, University of Cape Town

A rush of ancient DNA projects in Africa has presented the curators of archaeological skeletons with ethical issues because research requires the destruction of human bone.

Leopard DNA study in South Africa traces ancestry to ice age – and will guide conservation

Laura Tensen, University of Copenhagen

Research exploring how leopards evolved has found that South African leopards are descended from an ice age a million years ago.

Massive project on African DNA sets out to close the knowledge gap on mental illness

Lukoye Atwoli, Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications (GSMC); Anne Stevenson, Harvard University

Research on the genetic basis of mental illness has so far largely excluded anyone who is not of European heritage.


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