The use of museum specimens with high-throughput DNA sequencers

The use of museum specimens with high-throughput DNA sequencers

Andrew S. Burrell, Todd R. Disotell, Christina M. Bergey.

Burrell et al (2015) Journal of Human Evolution. 79: 35-44. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2014.10.015

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Abstract: Natural history collections have long been used by morphologists, anatomists, and taxonomists to probe the evolutionary process and describe biological diversity. These biological archives also offer great opportunities for genetic research in taxonomy, conservation, systematics, and population biology. They allow assays of past populations, including those of extinct species, giving context to present patterns of genetic variation and direct measures of evolutionary processes. Despite this potential, museum specimens are difficult to work with because natural postmortem processes and preservation methods fragment and damage DNA. These problems have restricted geneticists’ ability to use natural history collections primarily by limiting how much of the genome can be surveyed. Recent advances in DNA sequencing technology, however, have radically changed this, making truly genomic studies from museum specimens possible. We review the opportunities and drawbacks of the use of museum specimens, and suggest how to best execute projects when incorporating such samples. Several high-throughput (HT) sequencing methodologies, including whole genome shotgun sequencing, sequence capture, and restriction digests (demonstrated here), can be used with archived biomaterials.

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