M.A. Theses: Thomas Royle, 2014

There's More than One Fish in the Sea:  Investigating the Composition of Middle and Late Period Fisheries at EeRb-144, British Columbia, Canada through Ancient DNA Analysis

In this study, ancient DNA (aDNA) analysis was used to assign species identifications to a sample of Middle (7,000 to 4,500 years BP) and Late (4,500 to 200 years BP) Period fish remains from EeRb-144, a large campsite located in the Interior Plateau region of south-central British Columbia, Canada. The results of this analysis indicate that largescale sucker (Catostomus macrocheilus) (NISP=12) and northern pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus oregonensis) (NISP=8) are the most abundant species in the assemblage of Late Period fish remains from EeRb-144. This suggests these two taxa were the focus of the Late Period fishery at EeRb-144. Smaller quantities of peamouth chub (Mylocheilus caurinus) (NISP=3), longnose sucker (Catostomus catostomus) (NISP=1), and Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) (NISP=1) were also identified in the assemblage. Ecological data concerning the seasonal availability of these taxa and limited ethnographic accounts suggest EeRb-144’s Late Period fishery likely occurred during the spring and summer. The Middle Period fishery at the site also harvested largescale sucker (NISP=2), peamouth chub (NISP=1), and longnose sucker (NISP=1). These findings indicate locally abundant resident fish species were a potentially significant component of EeRb-144’s pre-contact fisheries, corroborating and refining the results of morphological faunal analyses from the area. In addition, the identification of largescale sucker, peamouth chub, and longnose sucker in both assemblages suggests there was some long-term continuity in fishing practices at the site.

This study demonstrates the feasibility of using ancient DNA analysis to identify fish remains from a variety of taxa to the species-level even when they lack taxonomically informative morphological features. The results also highlight that in order to improve aDNA analysis’ ability to discriminate between fish species there needs to be continued research into identifying useful DNA markers for species identification.

Keywords: ancient DNA; fisheries; Interior Plateau; species identification; universal primers; zooarchaeology