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Mitochondrial DNA control region sequences used for identification of species in two forensic science case studies: the Monte Cristi shipwreck and a homicide case
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Portions of the mitochondrial DNA control region were used to determine the species of animal hair used in a 17th century merchant ship's hull sheathing for the purpose of deterring wood boring worms (Toredo navalis). DNA was extracted from the hair shafts after the samples were cleaned from the pitch in which they were embedded. The extracted DNA was amplified via the polymerase chain reaction and subsequently sequenced using the dideoxy chain termination method. The sequence was used in a BLAST search (Basic Local Alignment Search Tool provided by the National Center for Biotechnology Information @ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/BLAST/) of Genbank to identify animals that had similar sequence content of the same region. The matching sequences were used in a phylogenetic study to determine the species of the hair samples. The results of the phylogenetic study showed that the hair was consistent with that of northern European cattle and led to the conclusion the ship was most likely sheathed in a northern European port. The mitochondrial DNA control region also was used in a study to determine if dog DNA could be recovered from the clothes of a young child allegedly attacked by dogs. The child's parents previously had been convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. They were granted habeas corpus relief and released from prison when new evidence suggested that the child may have been attacked by dogs. The Raines County (Texas) District Attorney's Office asked for help in finding evidence that might have allowed for a second indictment on the parents. The child's clothes were obtained from the Raines County District Attorney for genetic analysis. The biological samples recovered from the child's pants were treated as above with the exception that I compared the resultant sequence with known sequences of canids. The clothes also were used in an Indirect Enzyme Linked Immuno-Sorbant Assay (ELISA) to search for dog serum proteins. The results of both studies showed the biological evidence from the clothes was consistent with samples of known dogs, wolves and coyotes.
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Rittenhouse, Kevin Dee (1996). Mitochondrial DNA control region sequences used for identification of species in two forensic science case studies: the Monte Cristi shipwreck and a homicide case. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from
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