Hi guys! My name is Emily Buttrum, and I’m Heather’s other research assistant for this summer. I’m a senior biology major from Indianapolis, and I have an intense love for all critters, giant and otherwise.
On Tuesday, we finished our extraction of the modern beaver DNA while practicing our pipetting skills. Micropipettes are surprisingly sophisticated and delicate tools used to transfer extremely precise volumes of liquids. Knowing how to use them properly is key to getting good results. Thankfully, good results are exactly what we got. A quick analysis of our extract with the Nanodrop system showed that it contained tons of useable modern DNA (more than 60 ng/ul!). We stored the DNA in the refrigerator until we get some of the materials necessary for the next step in the process: DNA amplification via PCR.
In the afternoon, we read a paper about the mitochondrial genome of the modern beaver and how slowly that DNA changes. In short, the study asserts that because beavers have such long lifespans (for rodents), their mitochondrial DNA changes very slowly. We think that this slow evolution could be a contributing factor to why every other past beaver species (38 in all!) have all become extinct.
In the process of reading the paper and filling out a “message box” on it, we also discovered that modern beavers might be most closely related to a family of rodents called Geomyoidea, which includes pocket gophers and kangaroo mice, but that has not been tested with mitochondrial genome data.
We want to sequence a genome from a specimen or two of Geomyoidea, to test this hypothesis.