Prehistoric samples, such as bones, teeth and sediments contain minute amounts of ancient DNA. This DNA provides a time window into the past, and can be used to track evolutionary changes in real time. We are using a combination of whole genome and targeted sequencing to investigate the evolutionary history of several different extinct and extant species. The laboratory analyses are done in a dedicated ancient DNA clean lab in order to minimise the effect of contamination.
Our main research objectives are (i) to assess the impacts of past changes in climate on species evolution and demography, (ii) to investigate past events of gene flow among species and populations, and (iii) to examine the genetic processes that take place as species approach extinction. Examples of recent projects include genome sequencing of multiple woolly mammoths to examine inbreeding and loss of genetic variation in the last surviving population on Wrangel Island, tracing the genetic divergence between the wolf and domestic dog, and exploring the evolutionary relationship between extinct and extant rhinoceros species.
Specific questions that we are addressing include:
Love Dalén (Principal investigator)
David Díez-del-Molino (Postdoc)
Nicolas Dussex (Postdoc)
Patrícia Pečnerová (PhD student)
Tatiana Feuerborn (PhD student)
Pecnerova P, Díez-del-Molino D, Vartanyan S, Dalén L. 2016. Changes in variation at the MHC class II DQA locus during the final demise of the woolly mammoth. Scientific Reports, 6: 25274.
Lagerholm VK, Sandoval-Castellanos E, Vaniscotte A, Potapova O, Tomek T, Bochenski ZM, Shepherd P, Barton N, Van Dyck MC, Miller R, Höglund J, Yoccoz NG, Dalén L, Stewart JR. 2016. Range shifts or extinction? Ancient DNA and distribution modelling reveal past and future responses to climate warming in cold-adapted birds. Global Change Biology, 23: 1365-2486.
Palkopoulou E, Mallick S, Skoglund P, Enk J, Rohland N, Li H, Omrak A, Vartanyan S, Poinar H, Götherström A, Reich D, Dalén L. 2015. Complete genomes reveal signatures of demographic and genetic declines in the woolly mammoth. Current Biology, 25, 1395–1400.
Skoglund P, Ersmark E, Palkopoulou E, Dalén L. 2015. Ancient wolf genome reveals an early divergence of domestic dog ancestors and admixture into high-latitude breeds. Current Biology, 25: 1515–1519.