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Ancient DNA Recovery and analysis of genetic material from paleontological archaeological museum medical and forensic specimens. Edited by Bernd Herrmann and Susanne Hummel. New York Springer-Verlag. 1993. 263 pp. $69

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cally disclosed in Chapters 8 and 9, along
with the idea that mildly or moderately malnourished children begin to look “normal” to
the researcher after a while. In contrast to
many societies where children are fed well,
local wisdom states that the children of the
Dogo region of Mali don’t need good food.
This insight is discovered by the author a t a
local dinner when upon encouraging her
daughter to eat some chicken, she is told
that good food is wasted on children. Chapters 10, 11, and 12 provide more and different kinds of nutritional information explained in the context of the local culture.
Chapter 13 is a clinger when Miranda, her
daughter, gets malaria and has a close call
with death. The final Chapter 14,is a postscript on the 6 months spent in Mali and
emphasizes the author’s long-term research
and writing goals to reveal the nature and
extent of malnutrition in Africa. Towards
that end she has done a good job here.
This book would be ideal for introductory
anthropology classes. An accompanying instructor’s manual provides for each chapter
a summary of the chapter’s contents, basic
questions, and more in-depth issues for discussion. It would also be useful in upper division courses in nutritional anthropology
and fieldwork method and theory. The author suggests the book would also be useful
in classes in medical anthropology, peoples
of Africa, and women. The book will, upon
occasion, shock the uninitiated reader, but
will certainly engage the student’s interest.
For anthropologists, nutritional and otherwise, it is a good read.
Department of Anthropology
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado
AND ANALYSISOF GE- one interested in pursuing aDNA work. The
AR- editors describe the purpose of the book as
AND Fo“textbook a n d . . .‘cookbook‘, covering most
Edited by Bernd of the important contributions to the field; it
Herrmann and Susanne Hummel. New is intended to provide guidance in research
York: Springer-Verlag. 1993. 263 pp. design” (p, 2).
The book is organized into three sections;
$69.00 (cloth).
the first is an introduction, the second is on
Ancient D N A is a very timely book, pre- kinship and evolution, and the third and
senting a compendium of the amazing ad- largest is on sample preparation and analyvances made in a field that did not even sis. The introduction by Herrmann and
exist a decade ago but is now making news- Hummel first defines aDNA as “any DNA
paper headlines. As discussed in the intro- that has undergone autolytic or diagenetic
duction, it is the new technology of the poly- processes or any kind of fixation” (p. 2). It is
merase chain reaction (PCR) that has made important to note that the actual age of the
it possible to amplify millions of copies of source is generally not very important beDNA segments from just one. With the PCR cause the problems in working with ancient
even trace amounts of DNA preserved in an- source material are also encountered when
cient samples of bone and other tissues can working with year-old material. The editors
be studied. This ability has led to a blossom- then go on to present a summary of imporing of research on ancient DNA (aDNA) in tant issues general to all or most aDNA
widespread fields such as forensics, molecu- studies, such as the level of preservation,
lar evolution, medicine, and all the special- methods of extraction, and avoiding contamized fields dealing with the subject matter of ination by exogenous DNA. The authors coneach individual study (e.g., entomology). clude with an interesting discussion of the
This book brings together the techniques ethical implications of aDNA work (e.g.,
and applications developed in these dispar- what are the rights of living descendants of
ate fields and makes them available to any- individuals sampled for aDNA work?).
The second section, a discussion of molecular techniques that could be applied to investigate kinship and evolution at various
levels, is perhaps the most disappointing. It
consists of only two chapters, the first (Epplen) on simple repeat loci and their uses for
studies of kinship. This chapter includes an
unfortunately confusing description of
methods, as well as discussion of the application of these methods to modern samples.
However, there is very little discussion of
the special problems that would be encountered in employing these methods with aDNA.
An example of these problems would be that
the degradation common in aDNA makes it
very difficult to successfully digest segments
with restriction enzymes and results in inadequate annealing of probes. The second chapter
(Villablanca),however, is a very good presentation of the application of phylogenetic analysis to ancient mtDNA and the special problems involved, using the example of the
evolution of kangaroo rats. I would recommend this chapter to anyone planning phylogenetic analysis of molecular data, ancient or
modern. This chapter also presents a short list
of possible areas of evolutionary research using aDNA. Nevertheless, a more thorough discussion of the application of molecular techniques to kinship and evolutionaryquestions,
incorporating several specific anthropological
examples, would have made this section more
interesting and useful to anthropologists (and
researchers in general).
The remaining chapters concern various
methods of sample preparation and analysis. I will discuss in detail only those chapters
with clear anthropological applications. The
first chapter by Hummel and Henmann, entitled “GeneralAspects of Sample Preparation,”
provides a good general overview emphasizing the do’s and don’ts of working with aDNA.
The rest of the chapters discuss specific types
of aDNA samples (fixed and embedded, wet,
frozen, dried, and fossil).
Chapter 7 by Hauswirth, Dickel, and
Lawlor, on the analysis of aDNA from brain
tissue of the Windover Native American
population dating to about 7,500 B.P., presents a detailed discussion of the techniques
needed to access information on genetic parameters, such as “the continuity of maternal lineages” (p. 117) and the types of an-
thropological questions one could approach
with this information. The next chapter by
Nielsen, Engberg, and Thuesen, on aDNA
from frozen Arctic burials, presents a good
model for a human aDNA study and applies
it to a mummy found in Greenland. The authors attempt to answer “questions relating
to [Greenland’s] colonization and decolonization by the Eskimos and the Norse” (p.
124). Chapter 10 by Cooper, on aDNA from
museum specimens, makes several good
suggestions for optimization of methods,
and the discussion of contamination problems is particularly relevant to studies of
human remains. Chapter 12 by Rogan and
Salvo presents an intriguing new approach
to repair aDNA damage, allowing efficient
amplification, and its application to the
aDNA of South American mummies. Unfortunately, there is no discussion of the results
specific to questions regarding these mummies, only of the fidelity of the repair.
The section on hard tissue contained three
chapters with important applications to anthropological questions. The first chapter by
Hagelberg, on mitochondria1DNA extracted
from bone, provides perhaps the best description of extraction and amplification of
aDNA in the book. In addition, it lists several applications to archaeological and population migration questions, such as the origin of populations in the Pacific Islands and
the kinship relationships of an archaeological population in Thailand. The second
chapter by Hummel and Herrmann concerns sex determination using a DNA from
bone samples of medieval cemetery burials.
This technique takes advantage of DNA sequences specific to the Y-chromosome (and
thus to males), allowing the determination
of sex of infants, juveniles, and bone fragments, where osteological sex determination
is impossible. As the authors point out, this
technique is very useful, as (‘sexdetermination in subadult individuals is a necessity
for paleodemography and related fields concerned with social history” (p. 205). Unfortunately, the authors recommend using automated extraction of DNA to improve the
quality and reproducibility of results, which
is often impossible for those working in
small labs and on small budgets (often the
case for anthropologists). A third chapter by
Ellegren in this section discusses the use of
microsatellites (hypervariable simple sequence repeat genomic DNA) in the study of
genetic variability in ancient avian populations. Although the chapter specifically discusses avians, the application of this technique also holds promise for studies of
ancient human populations, as we already
have a great deal of information on these
polymorphisms in modern human groups.
Overall, the authors present several general conclusions relevant to anthropological
studies. First, that contamination is much
more of a problem when working with human
samples. Second, that bone seems to be a better source of aDNA than tissue, because it has
better DNA preservation, longer DNA segments, larger DNA quantities, and contamination is more easily overcome. Third, that
the anthropological applications are numerous. Suggested applications include: ancient
population movement, sexing, kinship relationships within populations, molecular clock
calibration, non-invasive sampling of populations (human or other primate) through use of
hair and feces, mating systems (matrilocal or
patrilocal), inbreeding level, evidence for bottlenecks, genetic evidence of diseases in archaeological populations, burial patterns (are
relatives buried near each other?), and phylogenetic relationships of populations.
In general, I found the book to be a great
source of advice for my own research on
aDNA and believe it would be an essential
source for those starting out with a DNA
research. This book contains very important
pointers for those workmg with material that
will be undergoing aDNA analysis in the future, such as archaeologists and museum curators. Unfortunately, the methods sections in
many of the chapters may seem slightly repetitive (“asit turns out, the problems of extraction and analysis of aDNA are basically the
same, regardless of source”[p. 21), and in some
cases may be terribly confusing to those unfamiliar with molecular laboratory techniques.
The uninitiated might complain about the emphasis on method, often to the detriment of a
detailed discussion of application. However,
as those working with aDNA will testify, “research on the availability and successful amplification of aDNA and aRNA is still mainly
following the principle of trial and error” (p.
3 t w e have many more problems obtaining
aDNA data than finding ways of applying it to
anthropological(or other) questions. Thus, the
emphasis on method is understandable, although unfortunate. I say unfortunate because researchers working with aDNA must
highlight the possible applications of these
techniques to answer actual anthropological
questions and describe those studies currently
generating results, or else the samples needed
to perform these studies will remain unavailable. Nevertheless, this book provides an invaluable source of variations on the theme of
extraction and PCR amplification of aDNA
and as such should precipitate advances in all
projects utilizing aDNA.
Department of Anthropology
University of California
Davis, California
essays and research papers from an internaFORENSIC
tional group of anthropologists, anatomists,
AND IDENTIFICATION.Edited by Mehmet Yasar Iscan and dentists, and criminalists. This book marks
Richard P. Helmer. New York: Wiley-Liss. the first occasion a t which information on
1993. 258 pp. ISBN 0-471-56078. $64.95 personal identification based on the skull
has been made available in a substantive
work rather than scattered through a wide
This volume, based on a conference enti- variety of journals, often with limited distritled “Advances in Skull Identification via bution. It also offers a rare opportunity to
Video Superimposition” held in E e l , Ger- receive both the instructions for preparation
many in 1988, draws together a collection of and the results of tests of reliability and re-
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herrman, hummer, dna, 263, archaeological, material, new, ancient, 1993, york, springer, museum, recovery, forensic, paleontological, bern, edited, verlag, analysis, medical, genetics, specimen, susanna
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