Is Amelia Earhart's Saliva the Key to Her Whereabouts?

DNA from old letters could be compared to found bone

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 22, 2011 12:22 PM CST

(Newser) – Last year, researchers may have found one of Amelia Earhart’s bones—and this year, another group might be able to match that bone to Earhart, using, of all things, the missing aviator’s spit. Scientists will attempt to harvest DNA from the saliva found on four letters Earhart sent to family members, and from that create a DNA profile they can then compare to the bone to determine whether it is actually Earhart’s, National Geographic reports.

The letters were chosen because of their personal nature, thus making it more likely they were actually sealed by Earhart, but any DNA samples harvested will be tested against DNA of Earhart’s relatives to confirm it came from her. A geneticist who is not working on the project says the method “sounds reasonable,” but will be challenging: Two kinds of DNA must be harvested in order to create the profile, and scientists will need to find “quite a bit of DNA” in order to succeed. One neat fact: People in that era generally opened envelopes on the side, with the aid of a letter opener, so the original seals on Earhart's envelopes remain intact. Click for more on the bone discovery.

This undated file photo shows Amelia Earhart.   (AP Photo/File)
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