The story of a visitor to the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA…and a cool human being!
On and off from 2012 to 2018, we had a novice ancient DNA visitor to the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) who proved to be highly productive individual. His name was Pere Bover Arbos and he was a classically trained palaeontologist from Spain. So, someone more used to climbing through narrow openings far underground than climbing into a clean-room body suit – although often just as difficult to take a toilet break from!
Pere fit right into our close-knit ACAD community and fast became a much-loved member of the group. By admitting his lack of ancient DNA knowledge and acting as a sponge (and willing volunteer!) he soon became a go-to person for advice from the younger members of the lab.
From his tales of strange Mallorcan species (dwarfed goats and endemic shrews) to his love of all things Spanish (including the correct way to make Paella!), we enjoyed having Pere with us for the short time we had him (4 years goes so fast!).
Now, Pere is back in Spain working at the University of Zaragoza, setting up his own ancient DNA lab to combine the complementary fields of palaeontology and ancient DNA. We miss him and wish him well.
Just a smattering of the publications to come out of Pere’s time at ACAD:
Molecular phylogenetics supports the origin of an endemic Balearic shrew lineage (Nesiotites) coincident with the Messinian Salinity Crisis. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 125: 188–195.
A near complete mitogenome of the extinct shrew Nesiotites hidalgo places it within Nectogalini, and our combined phylogeny confirms the relationship of Nesiotites–Asoriculus (extinct red-toothed shrews) with Soriculus (extant Himilayan shrew). Our divergence estimates also support the faunal arrival of Nesiotites to the Balearic Islands (6.44 Million years ago) during the Messinian Salinity Crisis and highlights the retrieval of mitogenomes from (small mammalian) fossils found in marginal environments for DNA preservation (5000–9500 years old from the surface of Coveta des Gorgs cave).
Molecular resolution to a morphological controversy: The case of North American fossil muskoxen Bootherium and Symbos. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 129: 70–76.
We generated seven mitogenomes of fossil musk ox (Bootherium bombifrons), which allowed us to confirm the synonymy of Symbos cavifrons/Bootherium bombifrons. Having these mitogenomes in our phylogeny also allowed us to provide strong support for the Bootherium bombifrons/Ovibos moschatus clade and highlights the fact that previously published genetic data from the shrub-ox likely represents actual Bootherium specimens.
Unraveling the phylogenetic relationships of the extinct bovid Myotragus balearicus Bate 1909 from the Balearic Islands. Quaternary Science Reviews 215:185–195.
Myotragus balearicus was the last living representative of an extinct caprine (defined as: of, or relating to, goats) lineage endemic to the Balearic Islands (archipelago of Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera) in the Western Mediterranean. Myotragus became extinct following the arrival of humans to the area about 4300 years ago. We were able to generate 13 complete or partial mitogenomes from Mallorcan cave sites and found support for a Myotragus-Budorcas (takin or gnu goat) relationship. Similar to the Mallorcan shrew, we estimate the arrival of the ancestral Myotragus into the Balearic Islands (7.1 Million years ago) during the Messinian Salinity Crisis.