Arctic foxes, modern laboratories, and broken milk boilers

Three days ago Petter Larsson published a study on the Scandinavian arctic foxes and their mitogenetic makeup over time. I was lucky to be a small part of this study. It rests on mitochondrial data from 31 new ancient and historic animals. Most of these arctic foxes were of a Scandinavian historic origin, but a decent proportion were Pleistocene, and one dated to >20.000 BP. And the results were interesting, indicating that a lot (really a lot!) of genetic diversity was lost in Scandinavia during the 20th century. And also that postglacial climate warming led to local population extinctions, or at least mt lineage extinction, since the haplotypes from Pleistocene western Europe was not present in the latter Scandinavian animals. A good study where aDNA was useful in understanding the history of a species.

This study is of course extra interesting to me. I have mentioned before the mixed emotions with having one’s old results tested. Thus, it is super interesting to see if they hold, but what if they don’t? 12 years ago Love Dalén and I published our results retrieved from a complex work-flow between laboratories in Stockholm, central Madrid, and Majadahonda. The work included a lot of traveling, bus-riding, and home-engineering (turning a broken milk boiler into a denaturation bath for example), and resulted in a short fragment of Pleistocene arctic fox mtDNA from Iberia among other things. I am just relieved to see that our conclusions were not wrong, and it is also good to see how much further Petter has been able to take the subject in one dedicated laboratory with equipment that was not built by Love and me.

Advanced denaturation equipment