Tropical ancient DNA from bulk archaeological fish bone reveals the subsistence practices of a historic coastal community in southwest Madagascar
MetadataShow full item record
Taxonomic identification of archaeological fish bones provides important insights into the subsistence practices of ancient coastal peoples. However, it can be difficult to execute robust morphological identification of fish bones from species-rich fossil assemblages, especially from post-cranial material with few distinguishing features. Fragmentation, weathering and burning further impede taxonomic identification, resulting in large numbers of unidentifiable bones from archaeological sites. This limitation can be somewhat mitigated by taking an ancient DNA (aDNA) bulk-bone metabarcoding (BBM) approach to faunal identification, where DNA from non-diagnostic bone fragments is extracted and sequenced in parallel. However, a large proportion of fishing communities (both past and present) live in tropical regions that have sub-optimal conditions for long-term aDNA preservation. To date, the BBM method has never been applied to fish bones before, or to fossils excavated from an exposed context within a tropical climate. Here, we demonstrate that morphologically indistinct bulk fish bone from the tropics can be identified by sequencing aDNA extracted from 100 to 300 ya archaeological midden material in southwest Madagascar. Despite the biases of the approach, we rapidly obtained family, genus, and species-level assemblage information, and used this to describe a subset of the ichthyofauna exploited by an 18th century fishing community. We identified 23 families of fish, including benthic, pelagic, and coral-dwelling fishes, suggesting a reliance on a variety of marine and brackish habitats. When possible, BBM should be used alongside osteological approaches to address the limitations of both; however, this study highlights how genetic methods can nevertheless be a valuable tool for helping resolve faunal assemblages when morphological identification is hindered by taphonomic processes, lack of adequate comparative collections, and time constraints, and can provide a temporal perspective on fish biodiversity in the context of accelerated exploitation of the marine environment.
Open access to this article is currently embargoed until 14 10 2019
Showing items related by title, author, creator and subject.
Multi-analytical approach to zooarchaeological assemblages elucidates Late Holocene coastal lifeways in southwest MadagascarDouglass, K.; Antonites, A.; Quintana Morales, E.; Grealy, A.; Bunce, Michael; Bruwer, C.; Gough, C. (2017)© 2017 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. The impact of resource exploitation by ancient human communities on Madagascar's environment is an area of intense debate. A fundamental question in the archaeology of Madagascar is the ...
Ancient DNA analyses of early archaeological sites in New Zealand reveal extreme exploitation of moa (Aves: Dinornithiformes) at all life stagesOskam, C.; Allentoft, M.; Walter, R.; Scofield, R.; Haile, James; Holdaway, R.; Bunce, Michael; Jacomb, C. (2012)The human colonisation of New Zealand in the late thirteenth century AD led to catastrophic impacts on the local biota and is among the most compelling examples of human over-exploitation of native fauna, including ...
Application of Quantitative Mineralogical Analysis in Archaeological Micromorphology: a Case Study from Barrow Is., Western AustraliaWard, I.; Merigot, K.; McInnes, Brent (2017)© 2017 Springer Science+Business Media New YorkThis study assesses the use of the Tescan Integrated Mineral Analyser (TIMA) platform, which integrates scanning electron microscopy—energy dispersive spectroscopy (SEM-EDS) ...