Indian researchers have found molecular evidence that confirms the presence of ostrich in India more than 25000 years ago. The evidence was founding during a DNA analysis of a fossilised eggshell fragment of ostrich. In the study, the researchers found 92% genetic similarity between the fossil eggshell samples and Struthio camelus, species of ostrich found in Africa. The results were published in a journal called PLOS ONE.
This is the first time that molecular evidence indicating the presence of ostrich in India was found in the eggshell fragments. The fragments have been studied previously as well using morphological features but no sufficient proof could be obtained then that confirmed the existence of the birds in the country. The analysed samples have close similarities with the African ostrich species, which indicates the movement of these birds between the two regions before the Indian landmass drifted away from Africa.
In total 11 fossilised eggshell samples from 8 archaeological sites in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat were studied. The DNA was isolated from five samples and a tiny portion of a highly conserved mitochondrial region was enlarged and then sequenced from one of the samples. The other four samples had less than 30 base pairs and so, were not included in the study.
Commenting on the whole process, one of the authors of the paper -Kumarasamy Thangara from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad stated that they could only amplify a small portion of the DNA as the sample was highly degraded. He further explained that it is very challenging to isolate DNA from ancient samples and it was more so in this case as the samples were exposed to the hostile environment. This is the first time that a long-term DNA preservation in fossil eggshell collected from tropical environments has been studied in India.