Ancient DNA pp 149-165 | Cite as

DNA from Museum Specimens

  • Alan Cooper


The use of museum collections as a source of DNA offers many unique advantages. A diverse collection of taxonomically identified specimens located in one place creates a range of opportunities for evolutionary and ecological research while avoiding costly field studies. Recorded specimen sexes and collection dates enable population, ecological, pathological, and genetic studies to be calibrated with time offering valuable temporal evolutionary insights (Thomas et al. 1990). Many museum studies can complement molecular work; morphological studies can suggest phylogenetic relationships for molecular testing, and archaeological studies and carbon-dated specimens provide an important temporal and spatial framework for ancient DNA (aDNA) studies. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is revolutionizing the role of the museum in science by drastically enhancing the amount of information that can be obtained from museum collections. Although the DNA recoverable from these specimens is generally less than 500 base pairs (bp) in length, the ability of PCR to selectively amplify targeted sequences, and to jump damaged points in the DNA (Pääbo et al. 1989) permits larger regions of DNA to be amplified and sequenced. Consequently, a range of genetic material evolving at rates fast enough to distinguish between individuals, and slow enough to examine large scale systematic relationships, has become the latest tool for biological investigation of museum collections.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alvarenga H (1983) Uma ave ratitae do Paleoceno Brasileiro. Bol Mus Nac Geol 41:1–7Google Scholar
  2. Anderson S, Bankier AT, Barrell BG, de Bruijn MHL, Coulson AR, Drouin J, Eperon IC, Nierlich DP, Roe BA, Sanger F, Schreier PH, Smith AJH, Staden R, Young IG (1981) Sequence and organization of the human mitochondrial genome. Nature 290:457–465PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Audley-Charles MG (1987) Dispersal of Gondwanaland: Relevance to evolution of the angiosperms. In: Whitmore TC (ed) Biogeographical Evolution of the Malay Archipelago. Oxford: Clarendon Press, pp. 5–25Google Scholar
  4. Cabot EL, Beckenbach AT (1989) Simultaneous editing of multiple nucleic acid and protein sequences with ESEE. Comput Appl Biosci 5:233–234PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Cooper A, Mourer-Chauviré C, Chambers GK, von Haeseler A, Wilson AC, Pääbo S (1992) Independent origins of New Zealand moas and kiwis. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 89:8741–8744PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cracraft J (1974) Phylogeny and evolution of the ratite birds. Ibis 116:494–521CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Desjardins P, Morais R (1990) Sequence and gene organization of the chicken mitochondrial genome: A novel gene order in higher vertebrates. J Mol Biol 212:599–634PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ellegren H (1991) DNA typing of museum birds. Nature 354:113PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fleming CA (1979) The Geological History of New Zealand and its Life. Auckland: Auckland University PressGoogle Scholar
  10. Hagelberg E, Clegg JB (1991) Isolation and characterization of DNA from archaeological bone. Proc R Soc Lond B 244:45–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hall LM, Ashworth C, Bartsiokas A, Jones DS (1993) Experiments on inhibition problems in old tissues. Ancient DNA Newsletter 1(2):9–10 Roy Zoo Soc LonGoogle Scholar
  12. Higuchi R (1989) Simple and rapid preparation of samples for PCR. In: Erlich HE (ed) PCR Technology: Principles and Applications for DNA Amplification. New York: Stockton Press, pp. 31–38Google Scholar
  13. Horie CV (1987) Materials for Conservation: Organic Consolidants, Adhesives and Coatings. London: ButterworthsGoogle Scholar
  14. Houde P (1986) Ostrich ancestors found in the Northern Hemisphere suggest new hypothesis of ratite origins. Nature 324:563–565CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Houde P, Haubold H (1987) Palaeotis weigelti restudied: a small Middle Eocene ostrich (Aves: Struthioniformes). Palaeovertebrata 17:27–42Google Scholar
  16. Irwin DM, Kocher TD, Wilson AC (1991) Evolution of the cytochrome b gene of mammals. J Mol Evol 32:128–144PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kocher TD, Thomas WK, Meyer A, Edwards SV, Pääbo S, Villablanca FX, Wilson AC (1989) Dynamics of mitochondrial DNA evolution in animals: Amplification and sequencing with conserved primers. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 86:6196–6200PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kwok S, Kellogg DE, McKinney N, Spasic D, Goda L, Levenson C, Sninsky JJ (1990) Effects of primer-template mismatches on the polymerase chain reaction: Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 model studies. Nucl Acids Res 18:999–1005PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lee HC, Pagliaro EM, Berka KM, Folk NL, Anderson DT, Ruano G, Keith TP, Phipps P, Herrin GL, Garner DD, Gaensslen RE (1991) Genetic markers in human bone. I. Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) Analysis. J For Sci 36:320–330Google Scholar
  20. Mayes CL, Lawyer LA, Sandwell DT (1990) Tectonic history and new isochron chart of the South Pacific. J Geophys Res 95:8543–8567CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Neefs JM, Van de Peer Y, Hendriks L, De Wachter R (1990) Compilation of small ribosomal subunit RNA sequences. Nucl Acids Res 18:2237–2317PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Olson SL (1985) The fossil record of birds. In: Farner DS, King JR, Parkes KC (eds) Avian Biology: Volume VIII. Orlando: Academic, pp. 79–238Google Scholar
  23. Pääbo S (1985) Molecular cloning of ancient Egyptian mummy DNA. Nature 314:644–645PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Pääbo S (1989) Ancient DNA: Extraction, characterization, molecular cloning, and enzymatic amplification. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 86:1939–1943PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Pääbo S (1990) Amplifying ancient DNA. In: Innis MA, et al. (eds) PCR Protocols: A Guide to Methods and Applications. San Diego: Academic Press, pp. 159–166Google Scholar
  26. Pääbo S, Gifford JA, Wilson AC (1988) Mitochondrial DNA sequences from a 7,000-year old brain. Nucl Acids Res 16:9775–9787PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Pääbo S, Higuchi RG, Wilson AC (1989) Ancient DNA and the Polymerase Chain Reaction: The emerging field of molecular archaeology. J Biol Chem 264:9709–9712PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Penny D, Hendy MD, Steel MA (1992) Progress with methods for constructing evolutionary trees. TREE 7:1–12Google Scholar
  29. Ruano G, Kidd KK (1989) Biphasic amplification of very dilute DNA samples via “booster” PCR. Nucl Acids Res 17:5407PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Sibley CG, Ahlquist JE (1981) The phylogeny and relationships of the ratite birds as indicated by DNA-DNA hybridization. In: Scudder GGE, Reveal JL (eds) Evolution Today. Proc. 2nd Intern. Congr. Syst. Evol. Biol. Pittsburgh, P.A.: Carnegie-Mellon University, pp. 301–335Google Scholar
  31. Swofford DL (1989) PAUP: Phylogenetic Analysis Using Parsimony, version 3.0 g. Champaign, Ill.: Illinois Natural History SurveyGoogle Scholar
  32. Taylor TG (1970) How an eggshell is made. Sci Am 222:89–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Thomas RH, Schaffner W, Wilson AC, Pääbo S (1989) DNA phylogeny of the extinct marsupial wolf. Nature 340:465–467PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Thomas WK, Pääbo S, Villablanca FX, Wilson AC (1990) Spatial and temporal continuity of kangaroo rat populations shown by sequencing mitochondrial DNA from museum specimens. J Mol Evol 31:101–112PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Walsh PS, Metzger DA, Higuchi R (1991) Chelex® 100 as a medium for simple extraction of DNA for PCR-based typing from forensic material. Biotechniques 10:506–513PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Wilson K (1988) Preparation of genomic DNA from bacteria. In: Ausubel FM et al. (eds) Current Protocols in Molecular Biology. New York: Wiley, sec. 2.4.1–2.4.5Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan Cooper

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations