Oral Presentation Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution Conference 2016

20,000 bones and counting - Insights into Past Biodiversity and Ancient DNA Preservation using Bulk-Bone Metabarcoding (#240)

Michael Bunce 1 , Dáithí C Murray 1 , Alicia Grealy 1 , Dalal Haouchar 1 , Daniel Werndly 1 , Kealoha Kinney 2 , Morten Allentoft 3
  1. Trace and Environmental DNA (TrEnD) laboratory, Curtin University, Perth, WA, Australia
  2. Brown University, Providence, RI, USA
  3. GeoGenetics, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

Fossil bones provide a unique window into the past but they are often difficult to interpret. Only a small proportion of animals are preserved as fossils – an even smaller fraction are then recovered and able to be identified morphologically. We have developed a globally applicable next generation DNA sequencing method that offers a genetic perspective on fossil assemblages with the aim of rapidly overlaying genotype data over more traditional methods of study. Our approach is called bulk-bone metabarcoding (BBM). BBM involves the conversion of largely non-diagnostic bone fragments into powder which is then genetically indexed, amplified and sequenced on NGS platforms.

This presentation will showcase some BBM data from a variety of sites across Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, USA, Madagascar and Armenia. The data generated using BBM provides some key insights into past biodiversity and faunal turnover. Moreover the approach is an efficient way to assess DNA preservation both within and between fossil sites. Taken together, bulk-bone metabarcoding provides a powerful and cost-effective way to study past biodiversity with tangible benefits in conservation science, paleobiology and archaeology.