Identifying remains of extinct kangaroos in Late Pleistocene deposits using collagen fingerprinting

Michael Buckley, Richard Cosgrove, Jillian Garvey, Gavin J. Prideaux

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    Our knowledge of past animal populations, including the geographic ranges of extinct spe-cies, has largely been derived from morphological analyses of skeletal fossil remains. However, a major barrier to the identification of the remains of extinct megafaunal species in archaeological and palaeontological sites is the highly fragmented nature of the material, which often precludes confident taxonomic identifications based on morphology. Biomolecular techniques are able to go beyond these limitations and are increasingly being used. Protein analysis offers a promising alter-native to DNA techniques because they can be much cheaper, more amenable to high-throughput and work on much older specimens. Here we demonstrate the potential of collagen fingerprinting in an Australian context by extracting collagen from 50 ka kangaroo fossils from two caves in Tasma-nia, and identify several species including the extinct short-faced kangaroo Simosthenurus occiden-talis. Importantly, of the five fossil bones sampled that had hitherto been ascribed morphology-based identifications below the family level, three had been incorrectly identified during an initial assessment of photographs taken in the field. Our results highlight the utility of using biomolecular methods for making genus-level identification of bone, especially those that may form a basis for broader arguments such as that of late-surviving megafaunal species.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)653-660
    Number of pages8
    JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
    Volume32
    Issue number5
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2017

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