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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 513:277-281 (2014)  -  DOI:

Detection of grey seal Halichoerus grypus DNA in attack wounds on stranded harbour porpoises Phocoena phocoena

Judith D. L. van Bleijswijk1,*, Lineke Begeman2, Harry J. Witte1, Lonneke L. IJsseldijk2, Sophie M. J. M. Brasseur3, Andrea Gröne2, Mardik F. Leopold3

1Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, PO Box 59, 1790 AB Den Burg, Texel, the Netherlands
2Department of Pathobiology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, Yalelaan 1, 3584 CL Utrecht, the Netherlands
3Wageningen IMARES, Department of Ecosystems, PO Box 167, 1790 AD Den Burg, Texel, the Netherlands
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: 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.

KEY WORDS: mtDNA · Diagnostic PCR · North Sea · Inter-species interaction · Predation · Mutilation · Forensic analysis

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Cite this article as: van Bleijswijk JDL, Begeman L, Witte HJ, IJsseldijk LL, Brasseur SMJM, Gröne A, Leopold MF (2014) Detection of grey seal Halichoerus grypus DNA in attack wounds on stranded harbour porpoises Phocoena phocoena. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 513:277-281.

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