Investigating the potential use of environmental DNA (eDNA) for genetic monitoring of marine mammals

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  • Andrew David Foote
  • Philip Francis Thomsen
  • Signe Sveegaard
  • Magnus Wahlberg
  • Jos Kielgast
  • Line A. Kyhn
  • Andreas B. Salling
  • Anders Galatius
  • Ludovic Antoine Alexandre Orlando
  • Gilbert, Tom
The exploitation of non-invasive samples has been widely used in genetic monitoring of terrestrial species. In aquatic ecosystems, non-invasive samples such as feces, shed hair or skin, are less accessible. However, the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) has recently been shown to be an effective tool for genetic monitoring of species presence in freshwater ecosystems. Detecting species in the marine environment using eDNA potentially offers a greater challenge due to the greater dilution, amount of mixing and salinity compared with most freshwater ecosystems. To determine the potential use of eDNA for genetic monitoring we used specific primers that amplify short mitochondrial DNA sequences to detect the presence of a marine mammal, the harbor porpoise, Phocoena phocoena, in a controlled environment and in natural marine locations. The reliability of the genetic detections was investigated by comparing with detections of harbor porpoise echolocation clicks by static acoustic monitoring devices. While we were able to consistently genetically detect the target species under controlled conditions, the results from natural locations were less consistent and detection by eDNA was less successful than acoustic detections. However, at one site we detected long-finned pilot whale, Globicephala melas, a species rarely sighted in the Baltic. Therefore, with optimization aimed towards processing larger volumes of seawater this method has the potential to compliment current visual and acoustic methods of species detection of marine mammals.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere41781
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 29 Aug 2012

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