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, 4 (4), 329-36

Attempted DNA Extraction From a Rancho La Brea Columbian Mammoth (Mammuthus Columbi): Prospects for Ancient DNA From Asphalt Deposits


Attempted DNA Extraction From a Rancho La Brea Columbian Mammoth (Mammuthus Columbi): Prospects for Ancient DNA From Asphalt Deposits

David A Gold et al. Ecol Evol.


Fossil-bearing asphalt deposits are an understudied and potentially significant source of ancient DNA. Previous attempts to extract DNA from skeletons preserved at the Rancho La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles, California, have proven unsuccessful, but it is unclear whether this is due to a lack of endogenous DNA, or if the problem is caused by asphalt-mediated inhibition. In an attempt to test these hypotheses, a recently recovered Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi) skeleton with an unusual pattern of asphalt impregnation was studied. Ultimately, none of the bone samples tested successfully amplified M. columbi DNA. Our work suggests that reagents typically used to remove asphalt from ancient samples also inhibit DNA extraction. Ultimately, we conclude that the probability of recovering ancient DNA from fossils in asphalt deposits is strongly (perhaps fatally) hindered by the organic compounds that permeate the bones and that at the Rancho La Brea tar pits, environmental conditions might not have been ideal for the general preservation of genetic material.

Keywords: Ancient DNA; Columbian mammoth; La Brea tar pits; Rancho La Brea.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Gel image summarizing the results from PCR amplification of mitochondrial 12S DNA from chicken and mammoth samples. (1–3) Phenol–chloroform protocol: (1) chicken femur, (2) Mammuthus columbi scapula, (3) M. columbi rib. (4–8) Ancient DNA protocol: (4) M. columbi scapula, (5) scapula with visible asphalt removed, (6) scapula cleaned with hexane, petroleum ether, and acetone, (7) M. columbi rib (8) chicken femur cleaned with hexane, petroleum ether, and acetone. (9) Negative control including all primers used in this study.

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