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

  • Russell G. Higuchi
  • Lisa A. Wrischnik
  • Elizabeth Oakes
  • Matthew George
  • Benton Tong
  • Allan C. Wilson


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 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Russell G. Higuchi
    • 1
  • Lisa A. Wrischnik
    • 1
  • Elizabeth Oakes
    • 1
  • Matthew George
    • 2
  • Benton Tong
    • 2
  • Allan C. Wilson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiochemistryUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Research DepartmentZoological Society of San DiegoSan DiegoUSA

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