ESR 21:215-222 (2013)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00524

Mucus: aiding elasmobranch conservation through non-invasive genetic sampling

Lilian Lieber1,, Simon Berrow2,3,, Emmett Johnston2, Graham Hall4, Jackie Hall4, Chrysoula Gubili1,8, David W. Sims5,6,7, Catherine S. Jones1,‡, Leslie R. Noble1,*,‡

1Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 2TZ, Scotland
2Irish Basking Shark Project, Buncrana, Co. Donegal, Ireland
3Marine and Freshwater Research Centre, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Dublin Road, Galway, Ireland
4Manx Basking Shark Watch, Manx Wildlife Trust, Isle of Man IM4 3AE, UK
5Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth, Devon PL1 2PB, UK
6Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton, University of Southampton, Waterfront Campus, Southampton SO14 3ZH, UK
7Centre for Biological Sciences, Building 85, University of Southampton, Highfield Campus, Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK
8Present address: Faculty of Environmental Design, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Alberta T2N 1N4, Canada
*Corresponding author. Email:
†These authors contributed equally; ‡Joint last authors

ABSTRACT: Large-scale genetic sampling by non-invasive methods is of vital importance for the conservation of vulnerable or elusive species. In the marine environment, non-invasive genetic sampling can provide a powerful alternative to conventional biopsies. We designed and implemented mucus swabbing for a free-ranging elasmobranch, thereby demonstrating the utility of this method in the field. We report the first attempt at mucus collection from 30 plankton-feeding basking sharks Cetorhinus maximus from 3 spatially distinct ‘hotspots’ in Irish waters. C. maximus DNA was successfully extracted and verified using DNA barcoding of the mitochondrial DNA cytochrome c oxidase 1 gene (99% sequence similarity) and basking shark species-specific multiplex PCRs derived from the nuclear ribosomal internal transcribed spacer 2 locus. Mitochondrial control region sequencing (1086 bp) showed that Irish samples were dominated by 2 haplotypes previously found to be globally distributed. Additionally, 1 novel haplotype was defined from western County Kerry. On-going genetic tagging will eventually provide more accurate estimates of global basking shark population structuring, abundance and behavioural ecology.


KEY WORDS: Non-invasive sampling · Mucus swabs · Basking shark · Cetorhinus maximus · Elasmobranchs · Genetic monitoring


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Cite this article as: Lieber L, Berrow S, Johnston E, Hall G and others (2013) Mucus: aiding elasmobranch conservation through non-invasive genetic sampling. Endang Species Res 21:215-222. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00524

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