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Nondestructive DNA extraction from sperm whale teeth and scrimshaw


Franz B. Pichler. Fax: + 64 (9) 373 7417; E-mail:


Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus), have been hunted throughout their global distribution. As a result, sizeable collections of sperm whale teeth and scrimshaw are held in museum and private collections. Access to these specimens for genetic analysis is limited due to the tendency of DNA extraction techniques to destructively sample such specimens. Here we demonstrate that small amounts of bone powder, collected by drilling inside the root cavity, can yield sufficient DNA for sequencing without adversely affecting the specimen's appearance. We anticipate that owners and curators of sperm whale teeth will be more amenable to genetic analysis using this extraction method.