Ancient DNA extracted from Danish aurochs (Bos primigenius): genetic diversity and preservation

P. Gravlund, K. Aaris-Sørensen, N. Noe-Nygaard, J.P. Bollback, M. Hofreiter, M. Meyer

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We extracted DNA from 39 Danish aurochs specimens and successfully amplified and sequenced a 252 base pair long fragment of the multivariable region I of the mitochondrial control region from 11 specimens. The sequences from these specimens dated back to 9830-2865 14C. yr BP and represent the first study of genetic variation of Danish aurochs. In addition, for all specimens we address correlations between the ability to obtain DNA sequences and various parameters such as the age of the sample, the collagen content, the museum storage period, Danish geography and whether the specimens were found in an archeological or geological context.We find that aurochs from southern Scandinavia display a star-shaped population genetic structure, that is indicative of a local and relatively recent diversification from a few ancestral haplotypes that may have originated in the ancestral Western European population before migration northwards during the retreat of the glaciers. Scenarios suggesting several invasions of genetically distinct aurochs are not supported by these analyses. Rather, our results suggest that a single continuous migration northward occurred. Our findings also suggest, although with only limited support, that aurochs in Northwestern Europe underwent a population expansion beginning shortly after the retreat of the glacial ice from Denmark and had a stable population size until the population decline that must have occurred prior to extinction. The absence of haplotypes similar to modern domestic cattle in our aurochs suggests that introgression between these species must have been limited, if it occurred at all.We found that the successful recovery of genetic material for PCR amplification correlates with sample age and local geographic conditions. However, contrary to other studies, we found no significant correlation between length of time in museum storage or the type of the locality in which a specimen was discovered (archeological or geological) and amplification success. Finally, we found large variances in our estimates of collagen content preventing an evaluation of this as an indicator of preservation quality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-111
JournalAnnals of anatomy-Anatomischer anzeiger
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2012

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