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Title: A critical path to the characterisation of agriculture through the pollen of cereals
Author: Bower, M. A.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 1998
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This study addresses questions concerning the change from the human exploitation of wild grass species to the cultivation of domesticated cereals. These questions are part of a larger issue concerning the understanding of the human exploitation of grasslands in general. To this end, this project has concentrated on fossil pollen evidence, which is a ubiquitous microfossil but has in the past, had limited success in the morphological differentiation of wild and domesticated Poaceae. The innovative approach applied here has been to develop a means of identifying ancient species based on their genetic code by examining fossil pollen DNA. In order to develop and access a methodology for the extraction of ancient Poaceae pollen DNA it was necessary to find pollen samples that fulfilled the criteria of deriving from cold, stable systems and that were dominated by one species of plant, in order to maximise the probability of the presence of DNA from a particular species which could be targeted with specific primers during amplification. In the absence of any readily available source of Poaceae pollen, lake sites were selected in Norfolk which are dominated by Betula pollen and these form the basis for this study. After considerable testing and development a methodological strategy has been developed for use on ancient pollen. It divides into three main stages: pollen cell lysis; recovery and purification of DNA; amplification of DNA using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and species specific primers. Results from this innovative study have proved successful for the lysis of ancient pollen without unacceptable damage to the integrity of the DNA. Further work is required to perfect the purification of recovered DNA fragments prior to amplification, but considerable progress has been achieved in methodological processes. The results point to the successful recovery of Poaceae DNA in the future and to the identification and differentiation of wild Poaceae from early domesticated species.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available