Museum genomics: Low-cost and high-accuracy genetic data from historical specimens

Kevin C. Rowe, Sonal Singhal, Matthew D. Macmanes, Julien F. Ayroles, Toni Lyn Morelli, Emily M. Rubidge, Ke Bi, Craig C. Moritz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Scopus citations


Natural history collections are unparalleled repositories of geographical and temporal variation in faunal conditions. Molecular studies offer an opportunity to uncover much of this variation; however, genetic studies of historical museum specimens typically rely on extracting highly degraded and chemically modified DNA samples from skins, skulls or other dried samples. Despite this limitation, obtaining short fragments of DNA sequences using traditional PCR amplification of DNA has been the primary method for genetic study of historical specimens. Few laboratories have succeeded in obtaining genome-scale sequences from historical specimens and then only with considerable effort and cost. Here, we describe a low-cost approach using high-throughput next-generation sequencing to obtain reliable genome-scale sequence data from a traditionally preserved mammal skin and skull using a simple extraction protocol. We show that single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from the genome sequences obtained independently from the skin and from the skull are highly repeatable compared to a reference genome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1082-1092
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Ecology Resources
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


  • Historical DNA
  • Natural history collections
  • Next-generation sequencing
  • Rattus


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