Ancient DNA from Pleistocene insect fossils of Beringia

  • Elias, Scott (CoI)
  • Barnes, Ian (CoI)
  • Heintzman, Peter (CoI)

Project: Research

Project Details


Scott Elias and Ian Barnes are supervising PhD student Peter Heintzman in a project to extract and identify strands of ancient DNA from fossil beetle exoskeletons from Alaska and the Yukon Territory. In a pilot study we have analyzed 183 fossil, museum and fresh-caught specimens of the ground beetle Amara alpina. The specimens range in age from 100 000 to 10 000 years old. A total of 38 fossil specimens have yielded identifiable DNA sequences, which we consider a remarkable achievement, made possible by excellent specimen preservation in permafrost sediments. DNA analysis of the 83 modern and museum specimens has provided a baseline phylogeographic context into which we can place the aDNA data. Of the 38 aDNA samples analyzed thus far, we have presently completed sequencing of the current target region (690 base pairs of mitochondrial COII) for 15. This pilot study has elucidated some phylogenetic relationships within the species but clearly more data (both modern and fossil) are needed.
Effective start/end date24/09/0931/12/11


  • ancient DNA
  • Beringia
  • Insects
  • Pleistocene