Oh the tangled webs we are untangling

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 22:26:27 09/07/16

In Reply to: Next the Dire wolf lives on! posted by Gracie


There seems to be no end to the wealth of information out there, waiting to be discovered via genomic analysis. In the early days of DNA sequencing, we were astonished at its ability to provide weighty evidence bearing on questions of paternity in humans. Now, us human types can get a boatload of info on our ancestry simply by mailing a skin or saliva sample to any of a number of outfits that have sprung up. I haven't gotten around to doing that yet, but I have seen other folk's results. You can get a pie chart, along with percentage of various ethnic origin groups represented in your DNA. It is startling how fast we have gotten to this ability. I know wildlife researchers have learned how to harvest shed cells found in animal feces that they can use to acquire such detailed info. That is why a moose researcher in Yellowstone was wandering the backcountry in search of moose scat back 5 or 6 years ago.

Given the time and impressive new capabilities to process enormous amounts of data, I suspect the day will come where we can create amazing family tree-like charts on any species we invest the time and resources in.

I can only imagine the conundrums that these new genetic discoveries may spawn when wild land managers have to make decisions keyed to what is an endemic species versus an exotic species. (Did you know there are two species of dandelion in Yellowstone? One is native. The other is exotic.)

What really excites me is that all these genetic discoveries have their roots in the rapid replication process known as the Polymerase Chain Reaction. That's where the term "PCR markers" came from that we heard in the course of the O.J. Simpson murder trial. The Polymerase Chain Reaction process was discovered by researchers working with Taq. Polymerase, a thermostable DNA polymerase isolated in Thermus aquaticus, a thermophyllic bacteria discovered in Yellowstone's hot springs in the late 1960s.

Sooooooooooooo, when we get off into discussions about deciphering the lineage of a species via analysis of genetic material, we eventually come full circle back to Yellowstone. I love it!!

BTW, while a few folks are embroiled in trying to figure out origins and genetic relationships between various canid species in North America, the debate continues to rage regarding the evidence that keeps turning up on the earliest human occupants that we have record of in North America. Thanks to global warming and the rising seas it is creating, we are seeing a lot of sea coast erosion in Alaska in relatively close proximity to the Bering Sea land bridge. The remains of human occupants of the area from thousands of years ago, along with their clothing, food, and tools are being discovered quite often, and the body of knowledge is being increased mightily via this route. (For the curious, there is mucho evidence of thousands of years of human habitation of these coastal areas. The rising seas are just uncovering relics via coastal erosion.)


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