- DNA of a molecular parasite that affects modern-day dogs, cats and foxes has been found to have originated from a prehistoric species of puma (Puma concolor)
- A coprolite (fossilized faeces) of the Puma was taken from a rock-shelter in the country’s mountainous Catamarca Province, where the remains of now-extinct megafauna have previously been recovered in stratigraphic excavations for the material of study.
- The coprolite had contained eggs that belonged to Toxascaris leonina, and this was confirmed through ancient mitochondrial DNA analysis.
- Through Radiocarbon dating, they have noted that parasitic roundworm eggs preserved inside dated back to between 16,570 and 17,000 years ago, towards the end of the last Ice Age.
- This study was conducted by a team of Argentinian scientists from the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET). The study was led by Romina Petrigh and Martín Fugassa, and it was carried out by an interdisciplinary team including archaeologists and biologists which is part of a project that views ancient faeces as important paleobiological reservoirs.
- This discovery has concluded that the oldest record of DNA of a molecular parasite has been found.
“Our aDNA studies have also confirmed the presence of pumas in the southern Puna at the end of the Pleistocene. This has significant implications for the natural history of the region, as well as for inferring the ecological context immediately before — as far as is known — the first human explorers ventured into the area. A large number of eggs of T. leonina and its larva state in the puma coprolite analysed here indicate the high infective capacity of this parasite, involving high risk for carnivores and for humans.”