Squeezing water from a stone: high- throughput sequencing from a 145-year old holotype resolves (barely) a cryptic species problem in flying lizards
Identifiers: SRA: SRP135680
We used Massively Parallel High-Throughput Sequencing to obtain genetic data from a 145-year old holotype specimen of the flying lizard, Draco cristatellus. Obtaining genetic data from this holotype was necessary to resolve an otherwise intractable taxonomic problem involving the status of this species relative to closely related sympatric Draco species that cannot otherwise be distinguished from one another on the basis of museum specimens. Initial analyses suggested that the DNA present in the holotype sample was so degraded as to be unusable for sequencing. However, we used a specialized extraction procedure developed for highly degraded ancient DNA samples and MiSeq shotgun sequencing to obtain just enough low-coverage mitochondrial DNA (547 base pairs) to conclusively resolve the species status of the holotype as well as a second known specimen of this species. The holotype was prepared before the advent of formalin- fixation and therefore was most likely originally fixed with ethanol and never exposed to formalin. Whereas conventional wisdom suggests that formalin-fixed samples should be the most challenging for DNA sequencing, we propose that evaporation during long- term alcohol storage and consequent water-exposure may subject older ethanol-fixed museum specimens to hydrolytic damage. If so, this may pose an even greater challenge for sequencing efforts involving historical samples.