[MARMAM] New Publication: A review of ancient DNA studies on marine mammals

Andy Foote footead at gmail.com
Thu Jun 9 10:31:26 PDT 2011

Dear colleagues,
I'm pleased to announce the recent publication of a review of ancient DNA
studies on marine mammals, which is part of a special edition of Annals of
Anatomy on aDNA edited by Michi Hofreiter.
This journal might be off most of your radars so I thought it was worth
flagging. It can be accessed here:
or by contacting FooteAD at gmail.com
Marine mammals have long generation times and broad, difficult to sample
distributions, which makes inferring evolutionary and demographic changes
using field studies of extant populations challenging. However, molecular
analyses from sub-fossil or historical materials of marine mammals such as
bone, tooth, baleen, skin, fur, whiskers and scrimshaw using ancient DNA
(aDNA) approaches provide an opportunity for investigating such changes over
evolutionary and ecological timescales. Here, we review the application of
aDNA techniques to the study of marine mammals. Most of the studies have
focused on detecting changes in genetic diversity following periods of
exploitation and environmental change. To date, these studies have shown
that even small sample sizes can provide useful information on historical
genetic diversity. Ancient DNA has also been used in investigations of
changes in distribution and range of marine mammal species; we review these
studies and discuss the limitations of such ‘presence only’ studies.
Combining aDNA data with stable isotopes can provide further insights into
changes in ecology and we review past studies and suggest future potential
applications. We also discuss studies reconstructing inter- and
intra-specific phylogenies from aDNA sequences and discuss how aDNA
sequences could be used to estimate mutation rates. Finally, we highlight
some of the problems of aDNA studies on marine mammals, such as obtaining
sufficient sample sizes and calibrating for the marine reservoir effect when
radiocarbon-dating such wide-ranging species.
Andy Foote
Centre for GeoGenetics,
Natural History Museum of Denmark,
University of Copenhagen,
ØsterVolgade 5-7,
DK-1350 Copenhagen,
E-mail: FooteAD at gmail.com
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