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Ancient DNA and climatic change: new perspectives from insular environments


One of the most exciting issues in modern biology is the use of genetic sequences to examine how modern patterns of biodiversity were generated. While most studies use DNA sequences from living species to investigate the factors promoting diversification and extinction, continuous improvements in ancient DNA (aDNA) techniques have greatly opened up the study of DNA sequences from fossils. aDNA has proved an important new tool for the analysis of past demography, migration and diversity and has revealed how past geological, environmental and climatic changes have shaped current biodiversity and perhaps will influence the near future. Important advances are currently being developed in the recovery of aDNA using hybridisation enrichment and Next Generation Sequencing technologies that open the way for nuclear Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) typing, and even genomics.
In this project we will these methodologies to recover aDNA from a unique fossil bovid, Myotragus balearicus, that lived in the Balearic Islands from at least 5 My ago to its extinction 5,000 years ago. This species is particularly important because of a detailed fossil record in the two islands where it lived, Mallorca and Menorca. The number of preserved bones is remarkable, with more than 150 fossiliferous deposits known, and a wide chronological range (from 100 to 5 kyr). Furthermore, the feasibility of genetic studies of M. balearicus has been demonstrated through preliminary reports of fragments of mitochondrial DNA.
Two major research objectives will be pursued through aDNA analyses of samples of this fossil bovid: 1) characterization of populations both within and between island; and 2) understanding the response of M. balearicus to the marked climate changes suffered during its long insular evolution in a species with no possibility of migration and analysis of the loss of genetic diversity over time and the potential influence on the extinction of the species.

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Calle serrano 117
28006 Madrid

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Comunidad de Madrid Comunidad de Madrid Madrid
Activity type
Research Organisations
Administrative Contact
Alberto Sereno Alvarez (Mr.)
EU contribution
No data