Thirty years ago the field of ancient DNA was launched with the publication of two short mitochondrial DNA sequences from a single Quagga (Equus quagga) museum skin, an extinct South African Equid (Higuchi et al. 1984). This was the first extinct species from which genetic information was retrieved. We isolated DNA from eight Quaggas and an extinct population of the plains Zebra (Equus burchelli burchelli) and were able to show that the Quagga displayed little genetic diversity and very recently diverged from the plains Zebra, probably during the penultimate glacial maximum. This emphasizes the importance of Pleistocene climate changes for phylogeographic patterns in African as well as Holarctic fauna. This work was in collaboration with Scott Glaberman, now Assistant Professor of Biology at University of South Alabama, and many U.S. and international scientists.
Publication: Leonard, J. A., Rohland, N., Glaberman, S., Fleischer, R. C., Caccone, A., & Hofreiter, M. (2005). A rapid loss of stripes: the evolutionary history of the extinct quagga. Biology Letters, 1(3), 291-295.