Ancient DNA from polynesian rats: Extraction, amplification and sequence from single small bones Conference Paper uri icon


  • The human colonisation of Polynesia was a major event in world prehistory. It represents one of the last human population migrations, and one which required crossing major water barriers. Though the subject of Pacific population origins has been approached by scholars from numerous fields for nearly a century, recent years have seen the problem addressed by human geneticists. Since the initial report describing the recovery of DNA from skeletal remains, ancient DNA studies have also focused on the Pacific region. In this paper we present the results of ancient DNA analyses of Rattus exulans, an animal that was transported by ancestral Polynesians through the Pacific to the far reaches of the Polynesian triangle. Analysis of DNA of R. exulans skeletal remains has many advantages over studies of ancient human remains, yet the one drawback has been the recovery of ancient DNA from single bones of these very small rodents. We have successfully modified standard extraction protocols for ancient DNA and have consistently extracted, amplified and sequenced mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from less than 0.1 g of R. exulans bone and tooth samples recovered from archaeological sites throughout the Pacific, ranging from 400 to 2000 years old.


  • Matisoo-Smith, Elizabeth
  • Allen, John S
  • Ladefoged, Thegn N
  • Roberts, R Mere
  • Lambert, David M

publication date

  • 1997