Titanic's unknown child: The critical role of the mitochondrial DNA coding region in a re-identification effort

Rebecca S. Just, Odile M. Loreille, J. Eldon Molto, D. Andrew Merriwether, Scott R. Woodward, Carney Matheson, Jennifer Creed, Stacey E. McGrath, Kimberly Sturk-Andreaggi, Michael D. Coble, Jodi A. Irwin, Alan Ruffman, Ryan L. Parr

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Abstract

This report describes a re-examination of the remains of a young male child recovered in the Northwest Atlantic following the loss of the Royal Mail Ship Titanic in 1912 and buried as an unknown in Halifax, Nova Scotia shortly thereafter. Following exhumation of the grave in 2001, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) hypervariable region 1 sequencing and odontological examination of the extremely limited skeletal remains resulted in the identification of the child as Eino Viljami Panula, a 13-month-old Finnish boy. This paper details recent and more extensive mitochondrial genome analyses that indicate the remains are instead most likely those of an English child, Sidney Leslie Goodwin. The case demonstrates the benefit of targeted mtDNA coding region typing in difficult forensic cases, and highlights the need for entire mtDNA sequence databases appropriate for forensic use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-235
Number of pages5
JournalForensic Science International: Genetics
Volume5
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2011

Keywords

  • Coding region
  • DNA identification
  • Database
  • Degraded DNA
  • Mitochondrial DNA
  • Single nucleotide polymorphism
  • Titanic

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    Just, R. S., Loreille, O. M., Molto, J. E., Merriwether, D. A., Woodward, S. R., Matheson, C., Creed, J., McGrath, S. E., Sturk-Andreaggi, K., Coble, M. D., Irwin, J. A., Ruffman, A., & Parr, R. L. (2011). Titanic's unknown child: The critical role of the mitochondrial DNA coding region in a re-identification effort. Forensic Science International: Genetics, 5(3), 231-235. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fsigen.2010.01.012