Ancient DNA traces extinct Caribbean 'Island Murderer' back to the dawn of mammals
From skeletal remains found among ancient owl pellets, a team of scientists has recovered the first ancient DNA of the extinct West Indian mammal Nesophontes, meaning "island murder." They traced its evolutionary history back to the dawn of mammals 70 million years ago.
|The Solenodon taxa is the closest living relative to the extinct Nesophontes |
[Credit: Natural History Museum, London UK]
The insect-eating creature existed in the Caribbean islands until the 16th century when, perhaps, they were outcompeted as the first Spanish ships arrived—-introducing rats as stowaways. "Nesophontes was just one of the dozens of mammals that went extinct in the Caribbean during recent times," said Professor Ian Barnes, Research Leader at London's Natural History Museum.
|The relationship of Nesophontes to other mammals [Credit: Natural History Museum, London UK]|
Obtaining DNA from tropical fossils is notoriously difficult, and the team made use of the latest developments in ancient DNA technology to conduct the study.
The findings will be of considerable interest for evolutionary biologists studying mammalian biogeography, and the significant role that humans may have played in a recent extinction.
Source: Oxford University Press [September 13, 2016]