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Nat Ecol Evol. 2018 Oct;2(10):1563-1570. doi: 10.1038/s41559-018-0654-8. Epub 2018 Aug 27.

Partial genomic survival of cave bears in living brown bears.

Author information

1
Institute for Biochemistry and Biology, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany. axel.barlow.ab@gmail.com.
2
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA, USA.
3
Institute for Biochemistry and Biology, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany.
4
Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA.
5
Department of Evolutionary Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany.
6
Department of Life Sciences and Biotechnology, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy.
7
Institute of Palaeontology, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.
8
Instituto Universitario de Xeoloxía, Universidade da Coruña, A Coruña, Spain.
9
Ilia State University, Institute of Ecology, Tbilisi, Georgia.
10
Department of Zoology, Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia.
11
Department of Biology, Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia.
12
Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia, Yerevan, Armenia.
13
Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.
14
Earth Institute, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.
15
Department of Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.
16
Department of Bioinformatics and Genetics, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm, Sweden.

Abstract

Although many large mammal species went extinct at the end of the Pleistocene epoch, their DNA may persist due to past episodes of interspecies admixture. However, direct empirical evidence of the persistence of ancient alleles remains scarce. Here, we present multifold coverage genomic data from four Late Pleistocene cave bears (Ursus spelaeus complex) and show that cave bears hybridized with brown bears (Ursus arctos) during the Pleistocene. We develop an approach to assess both the directionality and relative timing of gene flow. We find that segments of cave bear DNA still persist in the genomes of living brown bears, with cave bears contributing 0.9 to 2.4% of the genomes of all brown bears investigated. Our results show that even though extinction is typically considered as absolute, following admixture, fragments of the gene pool of extinct species can survive for tens of thousands of years in the genomes of extant recipient species.

PMID:
30150744
DOI:
10.1038/s41559-018-0654-8

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