Molecular Phylogenetic Inference from Saber-Toothed Cat Fossils of Rancho La Brea
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
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.
Janczewski, Dianne N.; Naoya Yuhki; Dennis A. Gilbert; George T. Jefferson; and Stephen J. O'Brien. 1992. "Molecular Phylogenetic Inference from Saber-Toothed Cat Fossils of Rancho La Brea." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 89, (20): 9769-9773. http://nsuworks.nova.edu/cnso_bio_facarticles/234