Clitellate worms (Annelida) in late-glacial and Holocene sedimentary DNA records from the Polar Urals and northern Norway
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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While there are extensive macro‐ and microfossil records of a range of plants and animals from the Quaternary, earthworms and their close relatives amongst annelids are not preserved as fossils and therefore the knowledge of their past distributions is limited. This lack of fossils means that clitellate worms (Annelida) are currently underused in palaeoecological research, even though they can provide valuable information about terrestrial and aquatic environmental conditions. Their DNA might be preserved in sediments, which offers an alternative method for detection. Here we analyse lacustrine sediments from lakes in the Polar Urals, Arctic Russia, covering the period 24 000–1300 cal. a BP, and NE Norway, covering 10 700–3300 cal. a BP, using a universal mammal 16S rDNA marker. While mammals were recorded using the marker (reindeer was detected twice in the Polar Urals core at 23 000 and 14 000 cal. a BP, and four times in the Norwegian core at 11 000 cal. a BP and between 3600–3300 cal. a BP), worm extracellular DNA ‘bycatch’ was rather high. In this paper we present the first reported worm detection from ancient DNA. Our results demonstrate that both aquatic and terrestrial clitellates can be identified in late‐Quaternary lacustrine sediments, and the ecological information retrievable from this group warrants further research with a more targeted approach.