[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Although the iconic mammoth of the Late Pleistocene, the woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius), has traditionally been regarded as the end point of a single anagenetically evolving lineage, recent paleontological and molecular studies have shown that successive allopatric speciation events must have occurred within Pleistocene Mammuthus in Asia, with subsequent expansion and hybridization between nominal taxa [1, 2]. However, the role of North American mammoth populations in these events has not been adequately explored from an ancient-DNA standpoint. To undertake this task, we analyzed mtDNA from a large data set consisting of mammoth samples from across Holarctica (n = 160) and representing most of radiocarbon time. Our evidence shows that, during the terminal Pleistocene, haplotypes originating in and characteristic of New World populations replaced or succeeded those endemic to Asia and western Beringia. Also, during the Last Glacial Maximum, mammoth populations do not appear to have suffered an overall decline in diversity, despite differing responses on either side of the Bering land bridge. In summary, the "Out-of-America" hypothesis holds that the dispersal of North American woolly mammoths into other parts of Holarctica created major phylogeographic structuring within Mammuthus primigenius populations, shaping the last phase of their evolutionary history before their demise.
Current Biology 10/2008; 18(17):1320-6. · 9.49 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Despite being one of the most studied families within the Carnivora, the phylogenetic relationships among the members of the bear family (Ursidae) have long remained unclear. Widely divergent topologies have been suggested based on various data sets and methods.
We present a fully resolved phylogeny for ursids based on ten complete mitochondrial genome sequences from all eight living and two recently extinct bear species, the European cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) and the American giant short-faced bear (Arctodus simus). The mitogenomic data yield a well-resolved topology for ursids, with the sloth bear at the basal position within the genus Ursus. The sun bear is the sister taxon to both the American and Asian black bears, and this clade is the sister clade of cave bear, brown bear and polar bear confirming a recent study on bear mitochondrial genomes.
Sequences from extinct bears represent the third and fourth Pleistocene species for which complete mitochondrial genomes have been sequenced. Moreover, the cave bear specimen demonstrates that mitogenomic studies can be applied to Pleistocene fossils that have not been preserved in permafrost, and therefore have a broad application within ancient DNA research. Molecular dating of the mtDNA divergence times suggests a rapid radiation of bears in both the Old and New Worlds around 5 million years ago, at the Miocene-Pliocene boundary. This coincides with major global changes, such as the Messinian crisis and the first opening of the Bering Strait, and suggests a global influence of such events on species radiations.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Sediments and vegetation dated 21,570 cal yr BP were buried under tephra on the northern Seward Peninsula. This buried surface has yielded plant macrofossils in growth position, as well as numerous insect fossils, excellently preserved in permafrost. It appears that many of the insects were buried alive by the volcanic ash. The species composition and ecological affinities of this fossil fauna are typical of Alaskan Late Pleistocene steppe–tundra environments. The assemblages are dominated by the weevil Lepidophorus lineaticollis, one of the most common species in Eastern Beringian Pleistocene fossil assemblages. Many other members of the ancient steppe–tundra insect community are preserved in these assemblages, including the pill beetle Morychus sp. and weevils of the genus Coniocleonus. In Alaska, most of these species (but not all of them) survived the Pleistocene/Holocene environmental transition, but are restricted today to relict patches of steppe-like vegetation. Faunal diversity is low, in spite of the recovery of more than 1000 individual insects and mites including more than 600 beetles. This reflects the small number of species adapted to the cold, dry environments of the LGM in Eastern Beringia. They represent an ecosystem which no longer exists.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We have sequenced the complete mitochondrial genome of the extinct American mastodon (Mammut americanum) from an Alaskan fossil that is between 50,000 and 130,000 y old, extending the age range of genomic analyses by almost a complete glacial cycle. The sequence we obtained is substantially different from previously reported partial mastodon mitochondrial DNA sequences. By comparing those partial sequences to other proboscidean sequences, we conclude that we have obtained the first sequence of mastodon DNA ever reported. Using the sequence of the mastodon, which diverged 24-28 million years ago (mya) from the Elephantidae lineage, as an outgroup, we infer that the ancestors of African elephants diverged from the lineage leading to mammoths and Asian elephants approximately 7.6 mya and that mammoths and Asian elephants diverged approximately 6.7 mya. We also conclude that the nuclear genomes of the African savannah and forest elephants diverged approximately 4.0 mya, supporting the view that these two groups represent different species. Finally, we found the mitochondrial mutation rate of proboscideans to be roughly half of the rate in primates during at least the last 24 million years.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The widespread extinctions of large mammals at the end of the Pleistocene epoch have often been attributed to the depredations of humans; here we present genetic evidence that questions this assumption. We used ancient DNA and Bayesian techniques to reconstruct a detailed genetic history of bison throughout the late Pleistocene and Holocene epochs. Our analyses depict a large diverse population living throughout Beringia until around 37,000 years before the present, when the population's genetic diversity began to decline dramatically. The timing of this decline correlates with environmental changes associated with the onset of the last glacial cycle, whereas archaeological evidence does not support the presence of large populations of humans in Eastern Beringia until more than 15,000 years later.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Current biogeographic models hypothesize that brown bears migrated from Asia to the New World ~100 to 50 thousand years ago but did not reach areas south of Beringia until ~13 to 12 thousand years ago, after the opening of a mid-continental ice-free corridor. We report a 26-thousand-year-old brown bear fossil from central Alberta, well south of Beringia. Mitochondrial DNA recovered from the specimen shows that it belongs to the same clade of bears inhabiting southern Canada and the northern United States today and that modern brown bears in this region are probably descended from populations that persisted south of the southern glacial margin during the Last Glacial Maximum.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The Palisades Site is an extensive silt-loam bluff complex on the central Yukon River preserving a nearly continuous record of the last 2 myr. Volcanic ash deposits present include the Old Crow (OCt; 140,000 yr), Sheep Creek (SCt; 190,000 yr), PA (2.02 myr), EC (ca. 2 myr), and Mining Camp (ca. 2 myr) tephras. Two new tephras, PAL and PAU, are geochemically similar to the PA and EC tephras and appear to be comagmatic. The PA tephra occurs in ice-wedge casts and solifluction deposits, marking the oldest occurrence of permafrost in central Alaska. Three buried forest horizons are present in association with dated tephras. The uppermost forest bed occurs immediately above the OCt; the middle forest horizon occurs below the SCt. The lowest forest bed occurs between the EC and the PA tephras, and correlates with the Dawson Cut Forest Bed. Plant taxa in all three peats are common elements of moist taiga forest found in lowlands of central Alaska today. Large mammal fossils are all from common late Pleistocene taxa. Those recovered in situ came from a single horizon radiocarbon dated to ca. 27,000 14C yr B.P. The incongruous small mammal assemblage in that horizon reflects a diverse landscape with both wet and mesic environments.
Quaternary Research 01/2003; 60(1):33-43. · 2.58 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The climatic and environmental changes associated with the last glaciation (90,000 to 10,000 years before the present; 90 to 10 ka B.P.) are an important example of the effects of global climate change on biological diversity. These effects were particularly marked in Beringia (northeastern Siberia, northwestern North America, and the exposed Bering Strait) during the late Pleistocene. To investigate the evolutionary impact of these events, we studied genetic change in the brown bear, Ursus arctos, in eastern Beringia over the past 60,000 years using DNA preserved in permafrost remains. A marked degree of genetic structure is observed in populations throughout this period despite local extinctions, reinvasions, and potential interspecies competition with the short-faced bear, Arctodus simus. The major phylogeographic changes occurred 35 to 21 ka B.P., before the glacial maximum, and little change is observed after this time. Late Pleistocene histories of mammalian taxa may be more complex than those that might be inferred from the fossil record or contemporary DNA sequences alone.