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Bite injuries of Grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) on Harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena)
Jauniaux, T.; Garigliany, M.-M.; Loos, P.; Bourgain, L; Bouveroux, T; Coignoul, F.; Haelters, J.; Karpouzopoulos, J; Pezeril, S; Desmecht, D. (2014). Bite injuries of Grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) on Harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena). PLoS One 9(12): -. dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0108993
In: PLoS One. Public Library of Science: San Francisco. ISSN 1932-6203; e-ISSN 1932-6203, meer
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  • Jauniaux, T.
  • Garigliany, M.-M.
  • Loos, P.
  • Bourgain, L
  • Bouveroux, T
  • Coignoul, F.
  • Haelters, J.
  • Karpouzopoulos, J
  • Pezeril, S
  • Desmecht, D.

Abstract
    Bite-like skin lesions on harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) have been suspected to be caused by grey seals (Halichoerus grypus), and a few field observations have been reported. Bite-like skin lesions observed on stranded animals were characterized by two main components: large flaps of loose or missing skin and blubber with frayed edges and puncture lesions. Definitive demonstration of predation by a grey seal was not reported so far in those stranded animals. In this study, five stranded porpoises with bite-like skin lesions were swabbed for genetic investigations. In addition, the head of a recently dead grey seal was used to mimic bite-like skin injuries on a porpoise carcass. Subsequently, the artificial skin injuries were swabbed, along with the gum of the seal used for inflicting them (positive controls). Total DNA was extracted from the swabs and was used to retrieve a fragment of mitochondrial DNA by PCR. Primers were designed to amplify a specific stretch of mitochondrial DNA known to differ between grey seals and porpoises. The amplicon targeted was successfully amplified from the positive control and from two of the stranded porpoises, and grey seal-specific mitochondrial DNA was retrieved from all those samples. We conclude that (1) it is possible to detect grey seal DNA from dead porpoises even after several days in seawater and (2) bite-like skin lesions found on dead porpoises definitively result from grey seals attacks. The attacks are most likely linked with predation although, in a number of cases, scavenging and aggressive behaviour cannot be excluded.

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