SCIENTISTS from the University of York have managed to extract the largest ever sample of genetic data from an object more than a million years old.

The new research involved extracting proteins from an ancient rhino tooth, dating back 1.77 million years.

And the breakthrough - in which the scientists managed to identify an almost complete set of proteins in the dental enamel of the rhino - could now enable scientists to collect the genetic data of ancient fossils and to build a bigger, more accurate picture of the evolution of hundreds of species.

Dr Marc Dickinson, of the Department of Chemistry at the University of York, said: “It was exciting to see such clear evidence from our data that the proteins within the tooth enamel were original.

“This enables the genetic data derived from them to be used with confidence.”

The team of scientists is already implementing the findings in their latest research.

The fossil of the rhino tooth was found in Georgia at a site called Dmanisi, an important archaeological site with the oldest human fossils outside of Africa.