EXAMINATION OF THE PHYLOGENETIC POSITION OF THE EXTINCT PASSENGER PIGEON THROUGH THE USE OF NUCLEAR DNA

Open Access
Author:
Wagner, Stephen Matthew
Area of Honors:
Biology
Degree:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Dr Beth Shapiro, Thesis Supervisor
  • Sarah Mary Assmann, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • passenger pigeon
  • ancient DNA
  • phylogeny
Abstract:
The phylogenetic position of the extinct passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) remains unclear. Morphological evidence indicates a close relationship with the mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) while mitochondrial DNA suggests a common ancestor with Macropygia. In this investigation, nuclear DNA of the beta-Fibrinogen gene was analyzed along with previously sequenced mitochondrial data to help resolve this question. DNA was successfully isolated and sequenced from a 140-year-old historic toepad sample using ancient DNA protocols. Phylogenetic and statistical analyses of the new data indicate a result closely corresponding to that suggested by mitochondrial DNA, placing the passenger pigeon as sister to Patagioenas. By sequencing DNA from various passenger pigeon samples it may be possible to track rates of population decline that led to the eventual extinction of the species.