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Comparative Study
, 89 (20), 9769-73

Molecular Phylogenetic Inference From Saber-Toothed Cat Fossils of Rancho La Brea

Comparative Study

Molecular Phylogenetic Inference From Saber-Toothed Cat Fossils of Rancho La Brea

D N Janczewski et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.


A method for the successful extraction of sequestered cellular DNA from 14,000-year-old fossil bones was developed and applied to asphalt-preserved specimens of the extinct saber-toothed cat, Smilodon fatalis. Two distinct gene segments, the mitochondrial gene for 12S rRNA and nuclear FLA-I (the feline class I major histocompatibility complex gene), from three different individual fossil specimens were cloned and sequenced after PCR amplification. Comparison of fossil-derived DNA sequences to homologous regions in 15 living carnivorous species, including 9 species of Felidae and 6 nonfelids, affirmed the phylogenetic placement of Smilodon within the modern radiation of Felidae distinct from the Miocene paleofelid (Nimravidae) saber-toothed "cat" species. These results raise the prospect of obtaining genetically informative DNA from preserved bones of extinct fossil species, particularly among the 2 million specimens excavated from the asphaltic sediments at Rancho La Brea in metropolitan Los Angeles.

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