Article

Journal of Molecular Evolution

, 25:283

First online:

Mitochondrial DNA of the extinct quagga: Relatedness and extent of postmortem change

  • Russell G. HiguchiAffiliated withDepartment of Biochemistry, University of California
  • , Lisa A. WrischnikAffiliated withDepartment of Biochemistry, University of California
  • , Elizabeth OakesAffiliated withDepartment of Biochemistry, University of California
  • , Matthew GeorgeAffiliated withResearch Department, Zoological Society of San Diego
  • , Benton TongAffiliated withResearch Department, Zoological Society of San Diego
  • , Allan C. WilsonAffiliated withDepartment of Biochemistry, University of California

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Summary

Sequences are reported for portions of two mitochondrial genes from a domestic horse and a plains zebra and compared to those published for a quagga and a mountain zebra. The extinct quagga and plains zebra sequences are identical at all silent sites, whereas the horsse sequence differs from both of them by 11 silent substitutions. Postmortem changes in quagga DNA may account for the two coding substitutions between the quagga and plains zebra sequences. The hypothesis that the closest relative of the quagga is the domestic horse receives no support from these data. From the extent of sequence divergence between horse and zebra mitochondrial DNAs (mtDNAs), as well as from information about the fossil record, we estimate that the mean rate of mtDNA divergence inEquus is similar to that in other mammals, i.e., roughly 2% per million years.

Key words

Ancient DNA Base sequences Tree analysis Postmortem change Cytochrome oxidase NADH dehydrogenase Zebras Horse Fossil record Molecular clock