Natural history museums across the globe are an invaluable resource for education and research, housing millions to billions of preserved specimens. These specimens, along with their associated data, are snapshots in time providing evidence of past biodiversity, genetic diversity, and environmental conditions. Specimen-based research has been vital in our understanding of topics such as evolution, ecology, and climate change. Modern specimen preservation often includes the separate preservation of tissue samples for genetic analysis, but many museum specimens predate this approach. Including older specimens (including paleontological and archaeological contexts) in genetic studies is valuable because they potentially represent extinct species, extirpated populations, distinct demographic conditions, and holotypes. However, this can be difficult because the DNA is but often degraded and/or crosslinked. Rapid innovation and technological advancement (laboratory, bioinformatic, sequencing) have "unlocked the vault" (Bi et al. 2013) to allow for the use of older museum specimens and ancient DNA in genomic studies.
Researchers in different organism-based disciplines (e.g., biology, archaeology, and paleontology) have made advances, and we hope to call attention to the similarities in approaches. The aim of this Research Topic is to highlight recent advances, demonstrate the importance of museum specimens in research, and further drive advancement in the field of museomics.
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Published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
- natural history collection (NHC)
- historical DNA
- DNA barcoding
- formalin extraction
- target capture