• ancient DNA;
  • mitochondrial DNA;
  • museum collections;
  • Mustela erminea;
  • polymerase chain reaction


There are large museum collections of mammalian skins and we wished to determine their usefulness for DNA-based evolutionary and conservation studies. Methods derived from the ancient DNA approach were used to process samples from skins of the stoat (Mustela erminea) from 18 museums in 11 countries. Successful polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification was achieved in 56%, 46% and 40% of all samples for 0.65-, 0.70- and 0.78-kb PCR products of mitochondrial DNA, respectively. Some of the best-preserved skin samples were those in tight-fitting containers in a dry and cold environment. With care in their preservation, mammalian skin collections may be a good source of DNA.