Genome Analysis Reveals Elephants And Mammoths Interbred

Posted: Mar 4 2018, 7:32am CST | by , Updated: Mar 4 2018, 7:35am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
Genome Analysis Reveals Elephants and Mammoths Interbred
San Diego Zoo Global

Researchers sequence complete genomes of extinct and living elephants species

The most comprehensive genome study of elephants and their extinct relatives has yielded many surprises. The DNA analysis suggests that different species of elephants frequently interbred throughout their evolutionary history. In addition, many distant relatives of elephants like mastodon and mammoths were able to survive changing environments because of the widespread interbreeding. The behavior has not been observed in elephants today, which raises questions about the future of those species.

“Interbreeding may help explain why mammoths were so successful over such diverse environments and for such a long time, importantly this genomic data also tells us that biology is messy and that evolution doesn't happen in an organized, linear fashion.” Evolutionary geneticist Hendrik Poina from McMaster Ancient DNA Centre said.

Researchers sequenced 14 genomes from both living and extinct species from Asia and Africa, two American mastodons, a 120,000-year-old straight-tusked elephant and a Columbian mammoth and found multiple evidences of crossbreeding between different elephant species. For instance, DNA analysis of an ancient straight-tusked elephant showed that its genetic makeup stemmed from an ancient African elephant, the woolly mammoth and modern forest elephant species.

Researchers further found that Columbian and woolly mammoths also interbred despite the fact that both were significantly different in size and used to lives miles apart.

The most surprising thing is that two of the world's three remaining elephant species, the forest and savanna elephants, have showed no signs of gene flow. They lived in complete isolation for the past 500,000 years despite their close proximity.

"There's been a simmering debate in the conservation communities about whether African savannah and forest elephants are two different species," said co researcher David Reich from Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School (HMS). "Our data show that these two species have been isolated for long periods of time - making each worthy of independent conservation status."

The findings are exciting and add elements of complexity to the elephants’ family tree. But researchers claim that it is among the most comprehensive evolutionary pictures to date.

Hendrik Poinar says. “The combined analysis of genome-wide data from all these ancient elephants and mastodons has raised the curtain on elephant population history, revealing complexity that we were simply not aware of before.”

This story may contain affiliate links.

Find rare products online! Get the free Tracker App now.


Download the free Tracker app now to get in-stock alerts on Pomsies, Oculus Go, SNES Classic and more.

Latest News

Comments

The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.

 

 

Advertisement

comments powered by Disqus