During a paleoparasitological survey of several animal mummies
( Cavia aperea f.
and Canis familiaris
from Chiribaya Baja, an archaeological site in Southern Peru, an unexpected find
was made. In the well preserved fur, large numbers of mummified fleas (Pulex
) that parasitized the animals during life were encountered.
Due to the relative recent event of the host mummification and the outstanding
preservation of the fleas, an attempt for the retrieval of DNA was made. A DNA
extraction and sequencing protocol for archaeological ectoparasitic remains
has been established, taking additional studies for tissue and protein preservation
into account. Tissue preservation was assessed with transmission electron microscopy
and the protein preservation was tested through the racemisation ratios of aspartic
acid. Regions of the 28S rDNA gene were successfully amplified and sequenced.
Further research perspectives are outlined.