Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

James R. Garey, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lorena Madrigal, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Bruce J. Cochrane, Ph.D.


Mitochondrial dna, Race, Craniometrics, Molecular forensics, Discriminant analysis


Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) has played a major role in human population studies over the past decade due to its maternal inheritance and negligible recombination (Macaulay, 1999). The mtDNA control region has been the focus of these studies due to the highly polymorphic nature of this non-coding region. Forensic scientists also use mtDNA to help determine the identity of missing individuals when nuclear DNA is not present. However, when skeletal remains are unclaimed, identification becomes near impossible. Therefore, mtDNA can play a valuable role in identification in terms of population affiliation, especially in conjunction with morphological analysis.

The goals of this research were two-fold: 1) to determine population affiliation of unknown skeletal samples using phylogenetics and 2) to find a method of extraction that leaves a majority of the remains intact. This research depended on the donation of samples from sixteen skeletal remains from the Hillsborough County Medical Examiners office. Mitochondrial DNA from ten of these cases were extracted, amplified, and sequenced in order to determine population affiliation via phylogenetic analysis of hypervariable region I (HVR I). These sequences were aligned and compared to that of sequences in a pre-existing mtDNA control region database (Handt, 1998). The crania of the skeletal remains were measured and subsequently analyzed by the forensic anthropology program FORDISC 2.0 to morphologically determine population affiliation. A secondary morphological analysis included input of the measurements into SPSS, a statistical program package, as a separate discriminant function assessment. This analysis was dependent on a database of craniometrics from known individuals (Jantz, and Moore-Jansen, 2000). The results were compared to those of FORDISC 2.0 as well as that of the phylogenetic tree constructed using molecular techniques. This study will determine whether phylogenetic analysis is a legitimate way to determine population affiliation of unknown individuals, thereby benefiting future forensic studies.