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Digital archive of theses discussed at the University of Pisa


Thesis etd-02212024-205035

Thesis type
Tesi di dottorato di ricerca
Thesis title
Molecular-Based Phylogeny of Oreopithecus bambolii
Academic discipline
Course of study
tutor Prof. Rook, Lorenzo
correlatore Dott. Pandolfi, Luca
correlatore Alba, David M.
  • Miocene
  • Oreopithecus bambolii
  • paleoproteomics
  • phylogeny
Graduation session start date
The evolutionary history of Oreopithecus bambolii has been the subject of extensive research for over 150 years, yet numerous questions regarding its phylogenetic relationships and morphological adaptations remain unresolved. The emerging field of paleoproteomics has already proved to be valuable in resolving phylogenetic relationships of long-extinct species. Paleoproteonomical methods may help also in reconstructing the phylogenetic relationship of Oreopithecus bambolii.
This Ph.D. thesis describes the attempt to extract ancient proteins from selected dental remains of the extinct hominoid primate Oreopithecus bambolii, and associated fossil bovids Maremmia haupti, and Maremmia lorenzi. Utilizing established protocols, proteins were extracted from the dental enamel and subjected to LC-MS/MS analysis. Spectral data were examined using the Max Quant program revealing peptides that may be a part of Oreopithecus bambolii and Maremmia dental enamel. To validate the authenticity of the identified proteins, further analyses of amino acid racemization and deamidation rates have been performed.
The results indicate that some of the analyzed samples possess endogenic proteins, albeit highly degraded. The extensive degradation of these proteins makes phylogenetic reconstruction impossible. Nevertheless, they remain valuable in providing insight, representing some of the oldest proteins identified in the fossil record, and offering valuable information about the preservation patterns of ancient proteins.
In addition to these findings, this thesis discusses the mechanisms of protein degradation, as well as methods for verifying protein authenticity, and compares our findings with other deep time paleoproteomics research.
The present PhD dissertation work is articulated in two main sections. The first part of the thesis (chapters 1 to 3) provides a comprehensive overview of Oreopithecus bambolii research history and offers a synthesis of the state of the art on its morphological and phylogenetic interpretations. The second part (chapters 4 to 9) discusses paleoproteomics and current research on deep time paleoproteomics and includes the bulk of my original research (analyses, data, and interpretations) on Oreopithecus and associated fauna paleoproteomics. A general synthesis of the present research and general conclusions are finally summarized in the final chapter (chapter 10).