Thorough assessment of DNA preservation from fossil bone and sediments excavated from a late Pleistocene-Holocene cave deposit on Kangaroo Island, South Australia

Dalal Haouchar, James Haile, Matthew C. McDowell, Dáithí C. Murray, Nicole E. White, Richard J.N. Allcock, Matthew J. Phillips, Gavin J. Prideaux, Michael Bunce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Fossils and sediments preserved in caves are an excellent source of information for investigating impacts of past environmental changes on biodiversity. Until recently studies have relied on morphology-based palaeontological approaches, but recent advances in molecular analytical methods offer excellent potential for extracting a greater array of biological information from these sites. This study presents a thorough assessment of DNA preservation from late Pleistocene-Holocene vertebrate fossils and sediments from Kelly Hill Cave Kangaroo Island, South Australia. Using a combination of extraction techniques and sequencing technologies, ancient DNA was characterised from over 70 bones and 20 sediment samples from 15 stratigraphic layers ranging in age from >20ka to ~6.8ka. A combination of primers targeting marsupial and placental mammals, reptiles and two universal plant primers were used to reveal genetic biodiversity for comparison with the mainland and with the morphological fossil record for Kelly Hill Cave. We demonstrate that Kelly Hill Cave has excellent long-term DNA preservation, back to at least 20ka. This contrasts with the majority of Australian cave sites thus far explored for ancient DNA preservation, and highlights the great promise Kangaroo Island caves hold for yielding the hitherto-elusive DNA of extinct Australian Pleistocene species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-64
Number of pages9
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Ancient DNA
  • Biodiversity
  • Fossils
  • Pleistocene-Holocene
  • Quaternary

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