Biology Faculty Articles

Title

Molecular Phylogenetic Inference from Saber-Toothed Cat Fossils of Rancho La Brea

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

10-15-1992

Publication Title

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

ISSN

1091-6490

Volume

89

Issue/No.

20

First Page

9769

Last Page

9773

Abstract

A method for the successful extraction of sequestered cellular DNA from 14,000-year-old fossil bones was developed and applied to asphalt-preserved specimens of the extinct saber-toothed cat, Smilodon fatalis. Two distinct gene segments, the mitochondrial gene for 12S rRNA and nuclear FLA-I (the feline class I major histocompatibility complex gene), from three different individual fossil specimens were cloned and sequenced after PCR amplification. Comparison of fossil-derived DNA sequences to homologous regions in 15 living carnivorous species, including 9 species of Felidae and 6 nonfelids, affirmed the phylogenetic placement of Smilodon within the modern radiation of Felidae distinct from the Miocene paleofelid (Nimravidae) saber-toothed "cat" species. These results raise the prospect of obtaining genetically informative DNA from preserved bones of extinct fossil species, particularly among the 2 million specimens excavated from the asphaltic sediments at Rancho La Brea in metropolitan Los Angeles.

ORCID ID

0000-0001-7353-8301

ResearcherID

N-1726-2015

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