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Heintzman P.D.,University of California at Santa Cruz | Zazula G.D.,Yukon Palaeontology Program | Cahill J.A.,University of California at Santa Cruz | Reyes A.V.,University of Alberta | And 2 more authors.
Molecular Biology and Evolution | Year: 2015

Recent advances in paleogenomic technologies have enabled an increasingly detailed understanding of the evolutionary relationships of now-extinct mammalian taxa. However, a number of enigmatic Quaternary species have never been characterized with molecular data, often because available fossils are rare or are found in environments that are not optimal for DNA preservation. Here, we analyze paleogenomic data extracted from bones attributed to the late Pleistocene western camel, Camelops cf. hesternus, a species that was distributed across central and western North America until its extinction approximately 13,000 years ago. Despite a modal sequence length of only around 35 base pairs, we reconstructed high-coverage complete mitochondrial genomes and low-coverage partial nuclear genomes for each specimen. We find that Camelops is sister to African and Asian bactrian and dromedary camels, to the exclusion of South American camelids (llamas, guanacos, alpacas, and vicu~nas). These results contradict previous morphologybased phylogenetic models for Camelops, which suggest instead a closer relationship between Camelops and the South American camelids. The molecular data imply a Late Miocene divergence of the Camelops clade from lineages that separately gave rise to the extant camels of Eurasia. Our results demonstrate the increasing capacity of modern paleogenomic methods to resolve evolutionary relationships among distantly related lineages. © 2015 The Author.

Porter T.M.,McMaster University | Golding G.B.,McMaster University | King C.,McMaster University | Froese D.,University of Alberta | And 2 more authors.
Molecular Ecology Resources | Year: 2013

DNA sequencing of ancient permafrost samples can be used to reconstruct past plant, animal and bacterial communities. In this study, we assess the small-scale reproducibility of taxonomic composition obtained from sequencing four molecular markers (mitochondrial 12S ribosomal DNA (rDNA), prokaryote 16S rDNA, mitochondrial cox1 and chloroplast trnL intron) from two soil cores sampled 10 cm apart. In addition, sequenced control reactions were used to produce a contaminant library that was used to filter similar sequences from sample libraries. Contaminant filtering resulted in the removal of 1% of reads or 0.3% of operational taxonomic units. We found similar richness, overlap, abundance and taxonomic diversity from the 12S, 16S and trnL markers from each soil core. Jaccard dissimilarity across the two soil cores was highest for metazoan taxa detected by the 12S and cox1 markers. Taxonomic community distances were similar for each marker across the two soil cores when the chi-squared metric was used; however, the 12S and cox1 markers did not cluster well when the Goodall similarity metric was used. A comparison of plant macrofossil vs. read abundance corroborates previous work that suggests eastern Beringia was dominated by grasses and forbs during cold stages of the Pleistocene, a habitat that is restricted to isolated sites in the present-day Yukon. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Szpak P.,McMaster University | Grocke D.R.,Durham University | Debruyne R.,McMaster University | MacPhee R.D.E.,American Museum of Natural History | And 5 more authors.
Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology | Year: 2010

In this study, we present bone collagen δ13C and δ15N values from a large set of Pleistocene woolly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius) from Siberia, Alaska and Yukon. Overall, results for mammoth specimens from eastern Beringia (Alaska and Yukon) significantly differ, for both δ13C and δ15N values, from those from western Beringia (northeastern Siberia). In agreement with palynological, entomological, and physiographic data from the same regions, these isotopic differences strongly imply that the 'mammoth steppe,' the extensive ice-free region spanning northern Eurasia and northwestern North America, was ecologically variable along its east-west axis to a significant degree. Prior to the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), the high-latitude portions of Siberia and the Russian Far East appear to have been colder and more arid than central Alaska and Yukon, which were ecologically more diverse. During the LGM itself, however, isotopic signatures of mammoths from eastern Beringia support the argument that this region also experienced an extremely cold and arid climate. In terms of overall temporal trend, Beringia thus went from a condition prior to the LGM of greater ecological variability in the east to one of uniformly cold and dry conditions during the LGM. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Reyes A.V.,University of Alberta | Jensen B.J.L.,University of Alberta | Zazula G.D.,Yukon Palaeontology Program | Ager T.A.,U.S. Geological Survey | And 3 more authors.
Quaternary Science Reviews | Year: 2010

A 40 cm thick primary bed of Old Crow tephra (131 ± 11 ka), an important stratigraphic marker in eastern Beringia, directly overlies a vegetated surface at Palisades West, on the Yukon River in central Alaska. Analyses of insect, bryophyte, and vascular plant macrofossils from the buried surface and underlying organic-rich silt suggest the local presence of an aquatic environment and mesic shrub-tundra at the time of tephra deposition. Autochthonous plant and insect macrofossils from peat directly overlying Old Crow tephra suggest similar aquatic habitats and hydric to mesic tundra environments, though pollen counts indicate a substantial herbaceous component to the regional tundra vegetation. Trace amounts of arboreal pollen in sediments associated with the tephra probably reflect reworking from older deposits, rather than the local presence of trees. The revised glass fission-track age for Old Crow tephra places its deposition closer to the time of the last interglaciation than earlier age determinations, but stratigraphy and paleoecology of sites with Old Crow tephra indicate a late Marine Isotope Stage 6 age. Regional permafrost degradation and associated thaw slumping are responsible for the close stratigraphic and paleoecological relations between Old Crow tephra and last interglacial deposits at some sites in eastern Beringia. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd.

Metcalfe J.Z.,University of Western Ontario | Longstaffe F.J.,University of Western Ontario | Zazula G.D.,Yukon Palaeontology Program
Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology | Year: 2010

This study investigates differences in the δ13Ccol, δ15N, δ13Csc, δ18Osc, Sr/Ca, and Ba/Ca values of juvenile and adult woolly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius) from Old Crow, Yukon, Canada. The data indicate that nursing in woolly mammoths lasted at least three years, and was associated with minimal decreases in δ13Ccol (~0.2‰), large decreases in δ13Csc (~1.5‰), and large increases in δ15N (~2‰) and δ18Osc (~2‰) values. Sr/Ca and Ba/Ca ratios suggest that woolly mammoth juveniles began consuming plant foods between 2 and 3 "African Elephant Years" of age, much later than the initiation of weaning in modern elephants. We hypothesize that delayed weaning was an adaptation to increased predation risk and decreased food quality/quantity during the extended hours of darkness that occur in winter at high latitudes. Prolonged nursing and delayed weaning may have made mammoths particularly vulnerable to climatic stressors or human hunting. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.

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