An efficient and reliable DNA-based sex identification method for archaeological Pacific salmonid (Oncorhynchus spp.) remains
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An efficient and reliable DNA-based sex identification method for archaeological Pacific salmonid (Oncorhynchus spp.) remains

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  • Alternative Title:
    An efficient and reliable DNA-based sex identification method for archaeological Pacific salmonid (Oncorhynchus spp.) remains
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    Pacific salmonid (Oncorhynchus spp.) remains are routinely recovered from archaeological sites in northwestern North America but typically lack sexually dimorphic features, precluding the sex identification of these remains through morphological approaches. Consequently, little is known about the deep history of the sex-selective salmonid fishing strategies practiced by some of the region's Indigenous peoples. Here, we present a DNA-based method for the sex identification of archaeological Pacific salmonid remains that integrates two PCR assays that each co-amplify fragments of the sexually dimorphic on the Y chromosome (sdY) gene and an internal positive control (Clockla or D-loop). The first assay co-amplifies a 95 bp fragment of sdY and a 108 bp fragment of the autosomal Clockla gene, whereas the second assay co-amplifies the same sdY fragment and a 249 bp fragment of the mitochondrial D-loop region. This method's reliability, sensitivity, and efficiency, were evaluated by applying it to 72 modern Pacific salmonids from five species and 75 archaeological remains from six Pacific salmonids. The sex identities assigned to each of the modern samples were concordant with their known phenotypic sex, highlighting the method's reliability. Applications of the method to dilutions of modern DNA samples indicate it can correctly identify the sex of samples with as little as similar to 39 pg of total genomic DNA. The successful sex identification of 70 of the 75 (93%) archaeological samples further demonstrates the method's sensitivity. The method's reliance on two co-amplifications that preferentially amplify sdY helps validate the sex identities assigned to samples and reduce erroneous identifications caused by allelic dropout and contamination. Furthermore, by sequencing the D-loop fragment used as a positive control, species-level and sex identifications can be simultaneously assigned to samples. Overall, our results indicate the DNA-based method reported in this study is a sensitive and reliable sex identification method for ancient salmonid remains.
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