CANCELLED - Evolutionary genomics of Sacred Ibis mummies from Egyptian catacombs, with emphasis on a detour
This Working Paper in Archaeology Seminar has been cancelled. We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused.
The ancient Egyptians mummified literally millions of Sacred Ibis birds from the Late to the Ptolemaic Period. These mummies remain stored in Egyptian catacombs. Up to 10,000 birds were mummified per year at some sites, suggesting that they were farmed for this purpose, although there is little direct evidence for this. Using DNA capture methods, and second generation DNA sequencing, we recovered complete ancient mitochondrial genomes from these mummies. We show a remarkably high level of genetic variation among them, a level very similar to that found for modern wild African populations. Mitochondrial haplotype and network analyses support the hypothesis that ancient Egyptians maintained wild migrating Ibises probably in localised enclosures to ensure the supply of birds in response to the year-by-year demand for sacrificial birds.
We then sequenced the nuclear genome of Sacred Ibis genome using a combination of Illumina HiSeq and the Pacific Biosystems platforms and used DNA capture methods to compare the structure and diversity of modern and ancient microsatellite alleles. We showed only small differences between ancient and modern repeat alleles using this resource, likely because of insufficient serial time points in this species. Consequently we sequenced 24 modern Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) to 21× coverage and 56 ancient genomes including 22 to 8x coverage, from many time points up to 46,000 years and determined genotypes for thousands of microsatellite loci in these samples. This allowed us to estimate rates of birth and death of microsatellite loci across the avian tree, and the ages of individual loci. These genotype data then allowed us to calculate length distributions for many classes of microsatellite and to detect changes in their distributions over time. We showed that the process of expansion and contraction of microsatellite alleles is effectively stationary over a timescale of tens of thousands of years.
About the Presenter
Prof David Lambert is Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Griffith University. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and was previously Distinguished Professor at Massey University in New Zealand, a principal investigator in the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution and a foundation professor in the New Zealand Institute for Advanced Study. He studied for his PhD in the laboratory of Prof Hugh Paterson at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Prof Paterson was later Head of the Department of Entomology at the University of Queensland. Lambert’s research group has been interested in a range of issues in theoretical evolutionary biology. His research team has used ancient DNA to estimate molecular rates over time using a number of animal models including the unique tuatara of New Zealand and Adélie penguins from Antarctica. A current focus of his research group is ancient and contemporary genomics of the First People of Australia. Prof Lambert’s research group has recently published the first complete mitochondrial genome of an ancient Aboriginal Australian person.