We Tried Getting DNA from La Brea Mammoths but Couldn’t

Asphalt is not good for Mammoth DNA.

Science Abstracts

Too many scientists are reluctant to publish negative results and there is no reason why they should feel this way. Knowing what doesn’t work is just as important as knowing what works.



Attempted DNA extraction from a Rancho La Brea Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi): prospects for ancient DNA from asphalt deposits

Fossil-bearing asphalt deposits are an understudied and potentially significant source of ancient DNA. Previous attempts to extract DNA from skeletons preserved at the Rancho La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles, California, have proven unsuccessful, but it is unclear whether this is due to a lack of endogenous DNA, or if the problem is caused by asphalt-mediated inhibition. In an attempt to test these hypotheses, a recently recovered Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi) skeleton with an unusual pattern of asphalt impregnation was studied. Ultimately, none of the bone samples tested successfully amplified M. columbi DNA. Our…

View original post 67 more words


Platypuses Go Mega


There’s no fauna like megafauna. Australian paleontologists have identified an extinct giant platypus that lived over 5 million years ago from a single fossil tooth. But wait, you say, platypi don’t have teeth, they have a duckbill. Well, that’s evolution: juvenile modern platypuses do have teeth, which they lose as they grow up. The newly identified fossil tooth is much larger and indicates the extinct platypus, Obdurodon tharalkooschild may have been more carnivorous. Hence some hyperbole in the Australian:

“Everything else would have thought twice about going for a swim with this platypus-zilla” (from one of the co-authors), and the headline, “Giant platypus a ‘fearsome’ predator”, which apparently has now been improved to “Ancient platypus was big and bitey.”

See also Science Daily for the press release and picture.

Picture Source: Reconstruction / Illustration by Peter Schouten.

Cervalces in Iowa

There’s no extinct cervid we love more than Cervalces, so it’s always a pleasure to see an article about the stag-moose.

Matthew Hill has identified countless bones found by farmers, fishermen, rock hounds and heavy equipment operators. Most of the remains turn out to be deer, bison, horse or cow bones, or simply odd looking rocks. But some discoveries turn out to be highly unusual, as was the case with an antler from an extinct Ice Age animal known as a stag-moose or elk-moose.

From Science Dailyhttp://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130919121906.htm

Waco Mammoths want to be a National Monument

Researchers believe at least 19 Columbian mammoths were drowned by a flash flood about 65,000 years ago. Now, a petition has been started to have the site declared a National Monument. Here’s the text of the petition:

Add the Waco Mammoth Site to the National Park Service as a national monument by executive order.

Located in Waco, Texas, the Waco Mammoth Site provides a rare glimpse into the natural history of the southwest United States. It is one of the few sites where visitors can view the fossil remains of Ice Age animals lying where they died up to 70,000 years ago. Including the site as a national monument would further enhance the value of this experience.

The site already has a state-of-the-art shelter and welcome center furnished by the community of Waco and Baylor University. National monument status would allow it to add classrooms, labs, and exhibit spaces, as well as resume excavation.

The National Park Service supports adding the Waco Mammoth Site as a national monument, but Congress has twice failed to act on the matter. Therefore, an executive order is needed.

They’ve got a long way to go, but If you’re interested, sign the petition at the White House site. See the Waco Mammoth site here.

Fossil Rodents in France

Like little Moroccan rodents and working in Paris? This is the job for you:

Post-doctoral position at the National Museum of Natural History UMR7205, Paris, France,

 Integrative approach of the 6th extinction in Morocco: systematic and evolution of modern and fossil rodent biodiversity thanks to classic and geometric morphometrics

 Duration: 12 month

Salary: 46800 € around (tax included) / year

 The question of the 6th extinction represents today a major problem at a global scale, and especially in coastal areas much vulnerable to strong human pressure. Since the emergence of the Neolithic culture associated with the increasing impact of humans on their environment, animals such as rodents have experienced extinctions, and numerous cases of invasions are encountered in this group. In order to better characterize the impact of climatic changes and anthropic pressure that induce the current loss of biodiversity, we need to study at a populational scale the past and present evolution of the species. The phylogeographic lineages have to be linked to the morphologic ones through an integrative approach. The Morroccan littoral sites are subjected to strong anthropic pressure and landscape modifications.They have yielded good palaeontological records through time (Upper Pleistocene – Holocene), in a good stratigraphic context, with numerous rodent remains. Based on the ANR-PEX04 MOHMIE project and the important modern and fossil material collected during recent field works, classic and geometric morphometrics analysis (teeth outlines, landmarks on skulls and mandibles) will be performed 1) on sequenced (mtDNA) and karyotyped specimens of Mus, Apodemus, Gerbillus (and perhaps Meriones), incorporating as much as possible holotypes and reference specimens in museum collections, and 2) on Upper Pleistocene and Holocene fossil specimens (caves of Témara, Morocco). Refinements of the methodology to follow the lineages and populations through time by combining morphometric data with genetic (DNA microsatellites) and (palaeo) environmental data will allow a better understanding of the history of the studied species and the impact of climate change and human pressure on them. A good experience in both Geometric morphometrics and North African small mammals represents a clear advantage.

 Contacts :

Christiane DENYS, MNHN Département Systématique et Evolution – CNRS UMR 7205, Laboratoire de Zoologie Mammifères et Oiseaux – CP 51, 55 rue Buffon, 75005 Paris. 

Thomas CUCCHI, MNHN Département Ecologie et Gestion de la Biodiversité – CNRS UMR 7209, Anatomie Comparée – CP 55, 55 rue Buffon, 75005 Paris. 

Roland NESPOULET, MNHN Département de Préhistoire – CNRS UMR 7194, Bâtiment de Géologie – CP 48, 43 rue Buffon, 75005 Paris.