Molecular Solutions for the Taxonomic Identification of Archaeological Whale Remains


Several large cetaceans appear on the IUCN Red List, and in most cases their endangered status is considered to be the result of relatively recent industrial overhunting. Archaeological studies, however, suggest that pre-Industrial whaling as well as climatic fluctuations may have had a significant impact on whale behaviour and ecology. Documenting the impact of natural and anthropogenic factors within the archaeological records is difficult because whales are big and their bones are friable. The larger the whale, the less bone is transported from shore to settlement, decreasing the likelihood of finding diagnostic pieces of the skeleton, and identifying either the species or number of animals present. A variety of molecular methods are now available identifying the taxonomy of highly fragmented remains, including collagen peptide mass fingerprinting (ZooMS), mitochondrial DNA barcoding, and whole genome sequencing. Through a case study focused on the Mediterranean, we discuss the relative advantages and limitations of these molecular techniques, and highlight the importance of molecular identifications in reconstructing former cetacean species distributions and behaviour.

Cite this Record

Molecular Solutions for the Taxonomic Identification of Archaeological Whale Remains. Camilla Speller, Anne Charpentier, Ana Rodrigues, Armelle Gardeisen, Michael Hofreiter. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430918)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15070