EVALUATING THE EFFECTS OF THREE PRESERVATION METHODS ON DNA QUALITY AND MORPHOLOGY OF MUSEUM SPECIMENS OF THE AMERICAN ALLIGATOR (Alligator mississippiensis)
Gross, Brandon A
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Museums specimens are preserved in a way that provides a unique perspective of gathering information that can date from the present to millions of years ago. This information allows scientists to have access to an exceptional resource of species that would otherwise prove difficult to obtain. The purpose of this study is to examine two size groups (juveniles and adults, n=9 per age group) of the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) to: (1) compare the efficacy of three methods (dermestid beetles, burial, cold water maceration) of cleaning and preserving full body skeletons and give a taphonomic ranking system to the skeletons; (2) evaluate which method yields the highest quantity of DNA by comparing DNA concentrations between three types of bones (articular, tooth cavity, and femur) while also examining two different processes (completely destructive vs. minimally destructive). With the extraction method of choice (Rohland and Hofreiter 2007) and from a simple two-sample t-test, there was no significant difference between the “minimally destructive” and the “completely destructive” process of the bones from all preservation methods. However, for the dermestid beetle colony analysis, there was a significant difference for the femur between juveniles and adults (p-value = 0.02984); and between femur and articular regardless of size groups (p = 0.0005971). These results allow for recommendations to museum curators, scientific researchers, who may be interested in working with/studying crocodylian museum specimens.