Mastodon DNA sequenced

This video is about Tyrannosaurus rex protein research.

From Nature:

Mastodon DNA sequenced

Ancient tooth reveals elephants’ family tree.

Louis Buckley

The mastodon, an extinct relative of modern elephants, has become the latest prehistoric animal to have its DNA sequenced.

Using a fossilized tooth, Michael Hofreiter of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and his colleagues sequenced all the DNA of the mastodon’s mitochondrion, an energy-generating structure in the cell with its own small genome.

The tooth is believed to be 50,000-130,000 years old, making the mastodon’s the oldest complete mitochondrial genome decoded so far.

“This extremely old and complete sequence is of interest in its own right,” says Hofreiter. But it can also help to resolve debates about the ancestry of modern elephants.

Scientists have been unable to agree how the Asian elephants, African elephants and woolly mammoths are related. The problem is that elephants have no living close kin — their nearest relatives are the ocean-going dugong and the rodent-like hyrax.

But a family tree based on the DNA of elephants, mammoth and mastodon shows that Asian elephants are more closely related to mammoths than they are to African elephants. The results are reported in PloS Biology.

Naked mole rat genome sequenced: San Antonio colony of long-lived rodents contributes to study: here.

Naked Mole Rat Genome May Hold Key to Long Life: here.

11 thoughts on “Mastodon DNA sequenced

  1. Associated Press
    Possible Mastodon Carving Found on Rock
    By JOHN FLESHER 09.04.07, 6:51 PM ET

    TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. –

    They aren’t certain, but underwater archaeologists say they may have discovered a boulder with a prehistoric carving in Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay.

    The granite rock has markings that resemble a mastodon – an elephant-like creature that once inhabited parts of North America – with what could be a spear in its side, say divers who have seen it.

    They came across the boulder at a depth of about 40 feet while searching for shipwrecks in June, said Mark Holley, a scientist with the Grand Traverse Bay Underwater Preserve Council.

    “When you see it in the water, you’re tempted to say this is absolutely real,” Holley said Tuesday during a news conference with photos of the boulder on display. “But that’s what we need the experts to come in and verify.”

    Specialists shown pictures of the boulder have asked for more evidence before confirming the markings are an ancient petroglyph, said Holley, an underwater archaeologist who teaches at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City.

    “They want to actually see it,” he said. Unfortunately, he added, “Experts in petroglyphs generally don’t dive, so we’re running into a little bit of a stumbling block there.”

    Among those withholding judgment is Daniel Fisher, curator of the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology, who has studied human interactions with mastodons. He has examined a couple of the photos and is waiting for more.

    “The difficulty I saw was that the features of what’s interpreted as an engraving were so subtle, and they’re not the only thing on the boulder,” Fisher said in a phone interview.

    Also, he said, mastodons are not known to have ranged into northern Michigan, although fossil remains have been found in the southern part of the state. They became extinct about 10,000 years ago.

    It’s possible that ancient peoples familiar with the beasts migrated north, Fisher added.

    “It’s conceivable” that the image on the rock is a petroglyph, he said. “I’m intrigued enough to take another look.”

    The boulder is within the 32-mile-long bay, Holley said, but the exact loction will be kept secret to prevent vandalism or theft.

    Students of Holley’s and divers with the preservation council found the boulder on the flat, sandy lake floor, which is strewn with algae and zebra mussels.

    It was part of a row of stones of varying sizes that might have marked the shoreline 6,000 to 10,000 years ago, Holley said.

    Some – although not the boulder – were arranged in a circle. That could indicate human manipulation although it’s unclear, said Rob Houston, a geology instructor at the college who has inspected the site.

    The boulder with the markings is 3.5 to 4 feet high and about 5 feet long. Photos show a surface with numerous fissures. Some may be natural while others appear of human origin, but those forming what could be the petroglyph stood out, Holley said.

    Viewed together, they suggest the outlines of a mastodon-like back, hump, head, trunk, tusk, triangular shaped ear and parts of legs, he said.

    “We couldn’t believe what we were looking at,” said Greg MacMaster, president of the underwater preserve council.

    Michigan has only two confirmed petroglyphs, said John Halsey, the state archaeologist. They include sandstone carvings in the Thumb area known as the Sanilac Petroglyphs, and images in an isolated rock in the northern Lower Peninsula. Ancient rock paintings have been found in the Upper Peninsula.

    The Grand Traverse Bay group plans further research and consultations with outside specialists.

    “We want to get them involved with this project so that we can categorically prove it,” Holley said.

    Copyright 2007 Associated Press.


  2. 2.5 million-year-old mastodon unearthed

    Romanian miners dig up one of the best preserved specimens in Europe

    updated 10:50 a.m. ET Aug. 11, 2008

    BUCHAREST, Romania – Miners in Romania have unearthed the skeleton of a 2.5 million-year-old mastodon, believed to be one of the best preserved in Europe, a local official said Friday.

    They stumbled on the remains of the mammoth-like animal during excavations in June at a coal mine in the village of Racosul de Sus, around 100 miles (170 kilometers) northwest of Bucharest, according to Laszlo Demeter, a historian and local councilor.

    “This is one of the most spectacular finds in Europe,” paleontologist Vlad Codrea, who examined the skeleton, told The Associated Press. “For Romania it is unique.”

    The mastadon became extinct in Europe two to three million years ago. Codrea, of Babes Bolyai University in Cluj, said 90 percent of the skeleton’s bones were intact, with damage to the skull and tusks.

    He also said that he hoped the find would help paleontologists to form a better image of the animals and vegetation present in the area 2.5 million years ago.

    “(This find) will open up an area of (paleontological) research in the area,” said Alexandru Andresanu, a professor at the Bucharest Geology Faculty in a telephone interview.

    “It is sensational. To discover a near complete skeleton (like this) is unique in Romania and a rarity in the world,” said Marton Wentzel, a researcher of vertebrates at the Three Rivers Land museum in Oradea, western Romania. “It is important because it can give us complete information about the flora and fauna or the era.”

    The animal — 10 feet (3 meters) high and 23 feet (7 meters) long — was a forefather of today’s elephants. It is related to the mammoth, but fed on leaves instead of grazing and had straight tusks, instead of curved ones. The reason it died out was probably due to climate change, said Codrea.

    The skeleton will be fully dug out in two months’ time, Demeter said. Research will be conducted on the bones and the skeleton will then be displayed in the nearby museum of Baraolt.


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