Royal Society Publishing

Ancient DNA reveals Holocene loss of genetic diversity in a South American rodent

Yvonne L Chan, Eileen A Lacey, Oliver P Pearson, Elizabeth A Hadly

Abstract

Understanding how animal populations have evolved in response to palaeoenvironmental conditions is essential for predicting the impact of future environmental change on current biodiversity. Analyses of ancient DNA provide a unique opportunity to track population responses to prehistoric environments. We explored the effects of palaeoenvironmental change on the colonial tuco-tuco (Ctenomys sociabilis), a highly endemic species of Patagonian rodent that is currently listed as threatened by the IUCN. By combining surveys of modern genetic variation from throughout this species' current geographic range with analyses of DNA samples from fossil material dating back to 10 000 ybp, we demonstrate a striking decline in genetic diversity that is concordant with environmental events in the study region. Our results highlight the importance of non-anthropogenic factors in loss of diversity, including reductions in smaller mammals such as rodents.

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Footnotes

  • Deceased 4 March 2003

    • Received April 1, 2005.
    • Accepted June 10, 2005.
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