Accounts of a lavish meal at a 1951 Explorer's Club gala say those there dined on prehistoric meats like woolly mammoth that had been long preserved in a glacier, the Associated Press says. The menu, meanwhile, said the meat served was giant sloth, the AP notes.
However, a DNA analysis of meat from the meal — sent to a member who couldn't make the party and that wound up in a museum — has found it was neither of those.
"I'm sure people wanted to believe it. They had no idea that many years later a PhD student would come along and figure this out with DNA sequencing techniques," Yale's Jessica Glass tells the AP.
She and her colleagues report in PLOS One this week that the mystery meat was actually green sea turtle. They sequenced part of the mitochondrial cytochrome-b gene and compared it to those in GenBank to find close matches with Chelonia mydas, or green sea turtle.
"Our archival research suggests that the prehistoric meat served at the 1951 ECAD was a jocular publicity stunt that mistakenly wound its way into fact," the researchers write in the paper.
The Explorer's Club says it is satisfied with the outcome of the study, which it funded. "The mindset 65 years ago and today has dramatically changed and what was obviously a unique event decades ago, has given way to a determined effort to introduce people to the foods that can sustain mankind well into the future," Will Roseman, its executive director, says.