Patterns of nuclear DNA degeneration over time — a case study in historic teeth samples


Peter Wandeler. Fax: +44 (0) 20 7586 2870; E-mail:


The amount of nuclear DNA extracted from teeth of 279 individual red fox Vulpes vulpes collected over a period spanning the last three decades was determined by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Although teeth were autoclaved during initial collection, 73.8% of extracts contained sufficient DNA concentration (> 5 pg/µL) suitable for reliable microsatellite genotyping but the quantity of nuclear DNA decayed significantly over time in a nonlinear pattern. The success of PCR amplification across four examined canine microsatellites over time was dependent on fragment size. By including data from two different tests for human contamination and from frequencies of allelic dropout and false alleles, the methodological constraints of population genetic studies using microsatellite loci amplified from historic DNA are discussed.