Vendela Kempe Lagerholm
A selection from Stockholm University publication database
Identifying Bird Remains Using Ancient DNA Barcoding
2017. Love Dalén (et al.). Genes 8 (6)Article
Bird remains that are difficult to identify taxonomically using morphological methods, are common in the palaeontological record. Other types of challenging avian material include artefacts and food items from endangered taxa, as well as remains from aircraft strikes. We here present a DNA-based method that enables taxonomic identification of bird remains, even from material where the DNA is heavily degraded. The method is based on the amplification and sequencing of two short variable parts of the 16S region in the mitochondrial genome. To demonstrate the applicability of this approach, we evaluated the method on a set of Holocene and Late Pleistocene postcranial bird bones from several palaeontological and archaeological sites in Europe with good success.
Nonreceding hare lines
2017. Steve Smith (et al.). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 120 (4), 891-908Article
Throughout time, climate changes have caused substantial rearrangements of habitats which have alternately promoted and disfavoured different types of taxa. At first glance, the mountain hare (Lepus timidus) shows the typical hallmarks of a cold-adapted species that has retreated to refugia since the onset of the current Holocene interglacial. In contrary to expectations, however, the species has a high contemporary genetic diversity with no clear differentiation between geographically isolated populations. In order to clarify the phylogeographic history of European mountain hares, we here analysed ancient DNA from the glacial populations that inhabited the previous midlatitude European tundra region. Our results reveal that the Ice Age hares had similar levels of genetic variation and lack of geographic structure as observed today, and the ancient samples were intermingled with modern individuals throughout the reconstructed evolutionary tree. This suggests a temporal genetic continuity in Europe, where the mountain hares were able to keep pace with the rapid changes at the last glacial/ interglacial transition and successfully track their shifting habitat to northern and alpine regions. Further, the temporal demographic analyses showed that the species' population size in Europe appears to have been tightly linked with palaeoclimatic fluctuations, with increases and declines occurring during periods of global cooling and warming, respectively. Taken together, our results suggest that neither habitat shifts nor demographic fluctuations have had any substantial impact on the genetic diversity of European mountain hares. This remarkable resilience, which contrasts to a majority of previously investigated cold-adapted species, is likely due to its generalist nature that makes it less vulnerable to environmental changes.
Range shifts or extinction? Ancient DNA and distribution modelling reveal past and future responses to climate warming in cold-adapted birds
2017. Vendela K. Lagerholm (et al.). Global Change Biology 23 (4), 1425-1435Article
Global warming is predicted to cause substantial habitat rearrangements, with the most severe effects expected to occur in high-latitude biomes. However, one major uncertainty is whether species will be able to shift their ranges to keep pace with climate-driven environmental changes. Many recent studies on mammals have shown that past range contractions have been associated with local extinctions rather than survival by habitat tracking. Here, we have used an interdisciplinary approach that combines ancient DNA techniques, coalescent simulations and species distribution modelling, to investigate how two common cold-adapted bird species, willow and rock ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus and Lagopus muta), respond to long-term climate warming. Contrary to previous findings in mammals, we demonstrate a genetic continuity in Europe over the last 20 millennia. Results from back-casted species distribution models suggest that this continuity may have been facilitated by uninterrupted habitat availability and potentially also the greater dispersal ability of birds. However, our predictions show that in the near future, some isolated regions will have little suitable habitat left, implying a future decrease in local populations at a scale unprecedented since the last glacial maximum.