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What can ancient DNA tell us about palaeoecology? Case studies from Australasia

Bunce, M., White, N., Allentoft, M., Oskam, C. and Haile, J. (2011) What can ancient DNA tell us about palaeoecology? Case studies from Australasia. In: Ecological Society of Australia, 2011 Annual conference, 21 - 25 November, Hobart, Australia.


The genetic information preserved in fossil bone, eggshell, museum skins and sediments can provide a direct window into the past. This presentation will showcase recent research projects involving bettongs, cockatoo’s and the extinct New Zealand moa. In the target species both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA has been analysed using Bayesian techniques to infer relationships and demography in a temporal and spatial context. In each of these examples ancient DNA provides some key insights into the level of connectivity between populations, the impact of fragmentation and the degree to which genetic biodiversity has (or hasn’t) been lost.

Lastly this presentation will examine how new (high-throughput) DNA sequencing technologies when applied to ancient sediments is emerging as a valuable tool in both palaeontological and archaeological research. Genetic ‘audits’ of plants, vertebrates and insects can be carried out (if there is DNA preservation) from only a few grams of dirt. These new approaches reveal a surprising about of detail about the composition of past ecosystems.

Publication Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
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