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…

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Great Gallinaceous Jobs in Archaeology

Quick, what’s the most important animal ever domesticated by humans? Cows! No, wait, horses? Or llamas? Oh, of course, the dog.

Nope, those are all wrong. The most important domesticated animal is the chicken.

If you have the right skills, you can be a part of a major new effort to understand human-chicken interactions from prehistory to the present. A British-based research team is looking for help. Not just one or two positions, but three full-time jobs. Ph.D. required. Haven’t written a dissertation yet, but aspire to be a chicken researcher? There are several studentships available, too.

From one of the job announcements:

This collaborative project between eight researchers at the Universities of Bournemouth, Leicester, Nottingham, York, Roehampton and Durham, will explore the natural and cultural history of chickens, the most globally ubiquitous domestic animal.

To elucidate the circumstances and meaning of the westward spread of chickens from their origins in Southeast Asia to Europe and the Americas (from the late prehistoric period to the present), our multi-disciplinary team of archaeologists, anthropologists, geneticists, and zooarchaeologists will integrate the evidence from across their fields to address the following questions:

1) When, how and why did domestication and the early husbandry of chicken take place?

2) How rapidly did chickens spread into different parts of Europe and how was this diffusion linked to population movements, trade or cultural changes?

3) When did poultry and egg production emerge and how intensively were chickens exploited for these products in different regions and periods?

4) When and where did modern chicken breeds develop?

5) How have chickens changed society and culture in antiquity and in modern times?

6) Can evidence from the past be used to transform modern practices of chicken management?

Learn more about this endeavor at the Chicken Co-op.

For the job announcements, go here and search for “chicken”.