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Curr Biol. 2001 Feb 6;11(3):200-3.

Ancient DNA analysis reveals divergence of the cave bear, Ursus spelaeus, and brown bear, Ursus arctos, lineages.

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1
CNRS UMR 5534, Centre de Génétique Moléculaire et Cellulaire, Université Claude Bernard, Lyon 1, Cedex 69622, Villeurbanne, France.

Abstract

The cave bear, Ursus spelaeus, represents one of the most frequently found paleontological remains from the Pleistocene in Europe. The species has always been confined to Europe and was contemporary with the brown bear, Ursus arctos. Relationships between the cave bear and the two lineages of brown bears defined in Europe, as well as the origins of the two species, remain controversial, mainly due to the wide morphological diversity of the fossil remains, which makes interpretation difficult [1, 2]. Sequence analysis of ancient DNA is a useful tool for resolving such problems because it provides an independent source of data [3]. We previously amplified a short DNA fragment of the mitochondrial DNA control region (mt control region) of a 40,000-year-old Ursus spelaeus sample [4]. In this paper, we describe the DNA analysis of two mtDNA regions, the control region and the cytochrome b gene. Control region sequences were obtained from ten samples of cave bears ranging from 130,000 to 20,000 years BP, and one particularly well-conserved sample gave a complete cyt b sequence. Our data demonstrate that cave bears split largely before the lineages of brown bears around 1.2 million years ago. Given its abundance, its wide distribution in space and time, and its large morphological diversity, the cave bear is a promising model for direct observation of the evolution of sequences throughout time, extinction periods, and the differentiation of populations shaped by climatic fluctuations during the Pleistocene.

PMID:
11231157
DOI:
10.1016/s0960-9822(01)00046-x
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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