[MARMAM] New publication: A species-specific qPCR assay provides novel insight into range expansion of the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) by means of eDNA analysis

Elena Agnese Valsecchi elena.valsecchi at unimib.it
Tue Feb 15 15:16:33 PST 2022

Dear colleagues,

We are pleased to share with you our new publication on a novel
non-invasive approach for the study of the Mediterranean monk seal:

Elena Valsecchi, Emanuele Coppola, Rosa Pires, Andrea Parmegiani, Maurizio
Casiraghi, Paolo Galli & Antonia Bruno. A species-specific qPCR assay
provides novel insight into range expansion of the Mediterranean monk seal
(Monachus monachus) by means of eDNA analysis. Biodivers Conserv (2022).


The monk seal is the most endangered pinniped worldwide and the only one
found in the Mediterranean, where its distribution and abundance have
suffered a drastic decline in the last few decades. The limited
understanding of the population demographics and conservation status of
this species are due to both its rarity and evasiveness, with records
biased towards occasional, mostly coastal, encounters. Current molecular
techniques allow us to detect DNA traces released into the environment
(eDNA) by any organism. We have developed three species-specific
qPCR-assays targeting the 12S/16S rRNA mitogenome regions of the monk seal.
The assays have been tested extensively on a comprehensive and diverse set
of samples (n = 73), including positive controls from a breeding population
in Madeira collected during their peak abundance, and two opportunistic
collections of Mediterranean eDNA samples (offshore/coastal) from on-going
projects. Monk seal DNA was detected in 47.2% of the samples collected from
a ferry platform in the Tyrrhenian (2018–2019) and in 66.7% of those
obtained in the Pelagie archipelago in the Strait of Sicily (2020). These
findings anticipated subsequent visual observations in the proximity of
these sampling areas by up to 2 years. At the Tyrrhenian site, monk seal
detection increased between 2018 and 2019. The demonstrated approach
provides a non-invasive and highly sensitive tool for defining the monk
seal actual distribution and home range -enabling monitoring also in
nocturnal hours-, for assessing its recovery rate and pinpointing
coastal/offshore sites where prioritizing conservation, research,
citizen-science, and educational opportunities.

The article is Open Access and is available here:

Best regards,

Elena Valsecchi

Elena Valsecchi, PhD

*Marine eDNA Group, MaRHE Center (**http://www.marhe.unimib.it/

*Adjunct Professor of Marine Vertebrate Zoology *

*Department of Environmental and Earth Sciences
(**https://www.disat.unimib.it/en <https://www.disat.unimib.it/en>**),

*University of Milano-Bicocca. Piazza della Scienza 1, 20126 Milan, Italy*

*elena.valsecchi at unimib.it <elena.valsecchi at unimib.it>*
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