Musk oxes were abundant across the Northern hemisphere until the late Pleistocene, when massive extinctions of megafauna occurred. This decline in numbers has been associated with a concomitant loss of genetic diversity (Campos et al. 2010, Hanssen et al. 2018). In this project we attempt to study and quantify the genetic diversity of an ancient musk ox population found in Belgium and maybe representing a relict population of the end of the last glacial. If ancient DNA can be recovered, genetic variation of this population will be assessed and compared to known estimates of mitochondrial variation in recent and more ancient populations (Campos et al. 2010, Hanssen et al. 2018). In this project, ancient DNA will be extracted from 3-10 bone samples (three have been dated and will be selected in priority), potentially belonging to five individuals and found in two Belgian caves (Goyet and Chaleux ). After DNA quality evaluation, short mitochondrial DNA fragments will be amplified and sequenced using primers that are specific to musk oxes. In a second step, next generation sequencing technology will be used sequence as much mitochondrial DNA as possible. References -Campos, P. F., E. Willerslev, et al. (2010). "Ancient DNA analyses exclude humans as the driving force behind late Pleistocene musk ox (Ovibos moschatus) population dynamics." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107(12): 5675-5680. -Hansen, C. C. R., C. Hvilsom, et al. (2018). "The Muskox Lost a Substantial Part of Its Genetic Diversity on Its Long Road to Greenland." Current Biology 28(24): 4022-4028.e4025.
Lab work progress: