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PLoS Biol. 2006 Mar;4(3):e73. Epub 2006 Feb 7.

Complete mitochondrial genome and phylogeny of Pleistocene mammoth Mammuthus primigenius.

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  • 1Brudnick Neuropsychiatric Research Institute, Department of Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA.


Phylogenetic relationships between the extinct woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius), and the Asian (Elephas maximus) and African savanna (Loxodonta africana) elephants remain unresolved. Here, we report the sequence of the complete mitochondrial genome (16,842 base pairs) of a woolly mammoth extracted from permafrost-preserved remains from the Pleistocene epoch--the oldest mitochondrial genome sequence determined to date. We demonstrate that well-preserved mitochondrial genome fragments, as long as approximately 1,600-1700 base pairs, can be retrieved from pre-Holocene remains of an extinct species. Phylogenetic reconstruction of the Elephantinae clade suggests that M. primigenius and E. maximus are sister species that diverged soon after their common ancestor split from the L. africana lineage. Low nucleotide diversity found between independently determined mitochondrial genomic sequences of woolly mammoths separated geographically and in time suggests that north-eastern Siberia was occupied by a relatively homogeneous population of M. primigenius throughout the late Pleistocene.

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