Analysing ancient dna from archeological eggshell in New Zealand; insights into the extinction of avian megafauna

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  • Analysing ancient dna from archeological eggshell in New Zealand; insights into the extinction of avian megafauna

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Title


Analysing ancient dna from archeological eggshell in New Zealand; insights into the extinction of avian megafauna

Subject

S5-2, S6-3, General session, oral

Description

Abstract:

Polynesians and the animals that accompanied them ~700 years ago had a profound influence on the New Zealand ecosystem. They brought fire, hunting and exotic species into a pristine environment leading to widespread faunal extinctions. The greatest impact was on the unique avifauna which was dominated by the giant ratite moa. Within a century and a half all nine species of moa were extinct (Holdaway & Jacomb, Science, 2000).

Using newly developed molecular techniques we show, for the first time, that ancient DNA is preserved in fossil eggshell (Oskam et al., Proc. B., 2010) and demonstrate it can be successfully characterised from extinct avian taxa such as moa and the Madagascan elephant bird. We also show that eggshell DNA can survive in a number of hostile environments, for up to 19,000 years. The ability to isolate and amplify DNA from eggshell will, when combined with stable isotope data and radiocarbon dating, provide a powerful tool in a number of paleontological and archaeological applications.

Moa species were sexually dimorphic (Bunce et al., Nature, 2003), slow reproducing and the smaller male was likely responsible for incubating eggs. This biology may have made these mega-herbivores more susceptible to Polynesian hunting practices. In this presentation we will present data on how DNA isolated from moa eggshell collected from archaeological middens across New Zealand can help us understand how the Polynesians interacted with moa in an archaeoz

Authors:

BUNCE Michael

Affiliations

Murdoch University, Oskam Charlotte, Haile James, Allentoft Morten, Jacomb Christopher, South Street Campus, 6150, Perth, AUSTRALIA. m.bunce@murdoch.edu.au

Creator

Bunce, Michael

Date

August 2010

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Citation

Bunce, Michael. " Analysing ancient dna from archeological eggshell in New Zealand; insights into the extinction of avian megafauna ," in BoneCommons, Item #1010, http://alexandriaarchive.org/bonecommons/items/show/1010 (accessed August 9, 2020).