Ancient DNA

Volume 840 of the series Methods in Molecular Biology pp 29-35


Case Study: Recovery of Ancient Nuclear DNA from Toe Pads of the Extinct Passenger Pigeon

  • Tara L. FultonAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, The Pennsylvania State University Email author 
  • , Stephen M. WagnerAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, The Pennsylvania State University
  • , Beth ShapiroAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Santa Cruz

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A variety of DNA extraction methods have been employed successfully to extract DNA from museum specimens. Toe pads are a common source of ancient DNA in birds, as they are generally not an informative character and can be removed without significant destruction of precious specimens. However, the DNA in these tissues is often highly degraded, both by natural postmortem decay and due to treatment by preservatives. In this case study chapter, we describe the use of both a commercial DNA extraction method and a silica-based method to extract ancient DNA from desiccated toe pads from the extinct passenger pigeon, Ectopistes migratorius. Successful amplification of nuclear DNA was achieved from both methods, representing the first nuclear DNA sequence recovered from this extinct species. We describe simple modifications to both protocols that we employed during the DNA extraction process.

Key words

Columbidae pigeons toe pads DTT dithiothreitol ancient DNA silica extraction