Modern, archaeological, and paleontological DNA analysis of a human-harvested marine gastropod (Strombus pugilis) from Caribbean Panama

Alexis P. Sullivan, Stephanie Marciniak, Aaron O'Dea, Thomas A. Wake, George H. Perry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Although protocols exist for the recovery of ancient DNA from land snail and marine bivalve shells, marine conch shells have yet to be studied from a paleogenomic perspective. We first present reference assemblies for both a 623.7 Mbp nuclear genome and a 15.4 kbp mitochondrial genome for Strombus pugilis, the West Indian fighting conch. We next detail a method to extract and sequence DNA from conch shells and apply it to conch from Bocas del Toro, Panama across three time periods: recently-eaten and discarded (n = 3), Late Holocene (984–1258 before present [BP]) archaeological midden (n = 5), and mid-Holocene (5711–7187 BP) paleontological fossil coral reef (n = 5). These results are compared to control DNA extracted from live-caught tissue and fresh shells (n = 5). Using high-throughput sequencing, we were able to obtain S. pugilis nuclear sequence reads from shells across all age periods: up to 92.5 thousand filtered reads per sample in live-caught shell material, 4.57 thousand for modern discarded shells, 12.1 thousand reads for archaeological shells, and 114 reads in paleontological shells. We confirmed authenticity of the ancient DNA recovered from the archaeological and paleontological shells based on 5.7× higher average frequency of deamination-driven misincorporations and 15% shorter average read lengths compared to the modern shells. Reads also mapped to the S. pugilis mitochondrial genome for all but the paleontological shells, with consistent ratios of mitochondrial to nuclear mapped reads across sample types. Our methods can be applied to diverse archaeological sites to facilitate reconstructions of the long-term impacts of human behaviour on mollusc evolutionary biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1517-1528
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Ecology Resources
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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