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Detection of grey seal Halichoerus grypus DNA in attack wounds on stranded harbour porpoises Phocoena phocoena
van Bleijswijk, J.; Begeman, L.; Witte, H.J.; IJsseldijk, L.L.; Brasseur, S.M.J.M.; Gröne, A.; Leopold, M.F. (2014). Detection of grey seal Halichoerus grypus DNA in attack wounds on stranded harbour porpoises Phocoena phocoena. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 513: 277-281.

Additional info:
In: Marine Ecology Progress Series. Inter-Research: Oldendorf/Luhe. ISSN 0171-8630, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in Authors 

Author keywords
    mtDNA · Diagnostic PCR · North Sea · Inter-species interaction · Predation · Mutilation · Forensic analysis

Authors  Top 
  • van Bleijswijk, J., more
  • Begeman, L.
  • Witte, H.J., more
  • IJsseldijk, L.L.
  • Brasseur, S.M.J.M., more
  • Gröne, A.
  • Leopold, M.F.

    DNA was analysed from external wounds on 3 dead harbour porpoises Phocoena phocoena that were stranded in the Netherlands. Puncture wounds as well as the edges of large open wounds were sampled with sterile cotton swabs. With specific primers that target the mtDNA control region of grey seal Halichoerus grypus, a 196 bp DNA fragment was amplified from 4 puncture wounds. Sequencing of the fragments confirmed the presence of grey seal DNA in the puncture wounds. DNA sequences differed between the cases, implying that 3 individual grey seals were involved. As 8 control swabs from intact skin and the transport bag as well as 6 swabs from open wounds on the same harbour porpoises were all negative, contamination with environmental DNA is considered unlikely. The results provide a link between strandings of mutilated harbour porpoises and recent observations of grey seals attacking harbour porpoises. Ours is the first study to use forensic techniques to identify DNA in bite marks from carcasses recovered from the marine environment. This approach can be extended to identify other marine aggressors, including cases involving persons mutilated at sea.

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