For those of you following our efforts to sequence the moa genome my apologies for the delay in publishing this update. It took a bit of time for our latest batch of samples to find their way to the UCSC Paleogenomics Lab.
Just completed the analysis of the last four samples. These are better preserved than the previous samples, but still pretty poor. The best two samples are only around 1.5% endogenous DNA (so 98.5% environmental DNA), which would make it a very expensive genome sequencing project. My recommendation would be to keep looking for a well preserved bone.
So unfortunately our second batch of samples have yielded only slightly better results than the first. I’ve discussed the sequencing efforts with many of the world’s ancient DNA and moa experts. They all agree that finding a well preserved sample is essential and that there’s not much you can do to guarantee your selected sample is high quality.
So what are the next steps?
At the moment our next plan is to undertake an excavation. There are many promising sites that have not yet been explored including anaerobic swamp locations that hold great promise for preservation.
We’re still determining the target location for the excavation. Once a site has been selected we will invite anyone who has contributed to the moa genome sequencing campaign to join us as we attempt to excavate a “fresh” specimen. Many of the preservation problems appear to be related to decay post excavation. In other words once the specimens are out of ground they decompose more quickly. We’re hoping that if we can excavate and cryopreserve rapidly then we will succeed in sourcing a sample of sufficient quality to sequence in detail.
Thank you to everyone who has supported the campaign so far. I wish I could have better news to share with you. However an excavation is an exciting proposition that presents a great opportunity to involve the community who have supported this work to-date.
Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course.