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Researchers reconstruct mitochondrial genome of Middle Pleistocene cave bear

Posted on September 11, 2013

Researchers have reconstructed the mitochondrial genome of a Middle Pleistocene cave bear using a bone sample found in Spain. This is the first time anyone has reconstructed such an old genome from a sample found outside the tundra. To reproduce the genome, Matthias Meyer of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig and his team devised a new technique for stringing together small DNA strands. In addition to recreating the genome, the team were able to reconstruct the cave bear’s phylogeny. The research appears in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers reconstruct mitochondrial genome of Middle Pleistocene cave bear

Skull of Ursus deningeri. Credit: Wikipedia
 

DNA fragments over time, largely because of depurination, making it hard to analyze very old samples. The fragmentation rate is temperature-based; DNA from samples recovered from permafrost tends to be less fragmented than DNA from samples found elsewhere. Recently, for example, scientists were able to reconstruct the genome of an approximately 700,000 year old horse from a sample in Canada’s Yukon Territory. Until now, however, scientists have only been able to generate sequences from non-permafrost samples about 120,000 years old or younger.

Meyer and his colleagues studied a bone sample from a Middle Pleistocene cave bear (Ursus deningeri). The sample, found at Spain’s Sima de los Huesos cave site, was more than 300,000 years old. The researchers believed they could recreate the cave bear’s genome by improving the method of DNA extraction.

 

Read more at: Phys.org

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