Microsatellite genotyping reveals end-Pleistocene decline in mammoth autosomal genetic variation

Veronica Nyström, Joanne Humphrey, Pontus Skoglund, N. J. McKeown, Sergey Vartanyan, P. W. Shaw, Kerstin Lidén, Mattias Jakobsson, Ian Barnes, Anders Angerbjörn, Adrian Lister, Love Dalén

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35 Citations (SciVal)


The last glaciation was a dynamic period with strong impact on the demography of many species and populations. In recent years, mitochondrial DNA sequences retrieved from radiocarbon-dated remains have provided novel insights into the history of Late Pleistocene populations. However, genotyping of loci from the nuclear genome may provide enhanced resolution of population-level changes. Here, we use four autosomal microsatellite DNA markers to investigate the demographic history of woolly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius) in north-eastern Siberia from before 60 000 years ago up until the species’ final disappearance c. 4000 years ago. We identified two genetic groups, implying a marked temporal genetic differentiation between samples with radiocarbon ages older than 12 thousand radiocarbon years before present (ka) and those younger than 9 ka. Simulation-based analysis indicates that this dramatic change in genetic composition, which included a decrease in individual heterozygosity of approximately 30%, was due to a multifold reduction in effective population size. A corresponding reduction in genetic variation was also detected in the mitochondrial DNA, where about 65% of the diversity was lost. We observed no further loss in genetic variation during the Holocene, which suggests a rapid final extinction event.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3391-3402
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number14
Early online date23 Mar 2012
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012


  • ancient DNA
  • extinction
  • glaciation
  • Mammuthus primigenius
  • megafauna
  • palaeogenetics


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