|Illustration of bacterial transformation. DNA from dead cells gets cut into fragments and exits the cell. The free floating DNA can then be picked up by competent cells.|
Especially intriguing, the bacteria were able to incorporate DNA recovered from a 43,000 year old woolly mammoth. You might think that ancient DNA rarely becomes available to modern bacteria, but tons of the stuff is constantly being released from river sediments.
Søren Overballe-Petersena, Klaus Harms, Ludovic A. A. Orlando, et al (2013). Bacterial natural transformation by highly fragmented and damaged DNA Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1315278110.