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Nature. 2006 Feb 9;439(7077):724-7. Epub 2005 Dec 18.

Multiplex amplification of the mammoth mitochondrial genome and the evolution of Elephantidae.

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Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany.


In studying the genomes of extinct species, two principal limitations are typically the small quantities of endogenous ancient DNA and its degraded condition, even though products of up to 1,600 base pairs (bp) have been amplified in rare cases. Using small overlapping polymerase chain reaction products, longer stretches of sequences or even whole mitochondrial genomes can be reconstructed, but this approach is limited by the number of amplifications that can be performed from rare samples. Thus, even from well-studied Pleistocene species such as mammoths, ground sloths and cave bears, no DNA sequences of more than about 1,000 bp have been reconstructed. Here we report the complete mitochondrial genome sequence of the Pleistocene woolly mammoth Mammuthus primigenius. We used about 200 mg of bone and a new approach that allows the simultaneous retrieval of multiple sequences from small amounts of degraded DNA. Our phylogenetic analyses show that the mammoth was more closely related to the Asian than to the African elephant. However, the divergence of mammoth, African and Asian elephants occurred over a short time, corresponding to only about 7% of the total length of the phylogenetic tree for the three evolutionary lineages.

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