Control control control: a reassessment and comparison of GenBank and chromatogram mtDNA sequence variation in Baltic grey seals (Halichoerus grypus).
ABSTRACT: Genetic data can provide a powerful tool for those interested in the biology, management and conservation of wildlife, but also lead to erroneous conclusions if appropriate controls are not taken at all steps of the analytical process. This particularly applies to data deposited in public repositories such as GenBank, whose utility relies heavily on the assumption of high data quality. Here we report on an in-depth reassessment and comparison of GenBank and chromatogram mtDNA sequence data generated in a previous study of Baltic grey seals. By re-editing the original chromatogram data we found that approximately 40% of the grey seal mtDNA haplotype sequences posted in GenBank contained errors. The re-analysis of the edited chromatogram data yielded overall similar results and conclusions as the original study. However, a significantly different outcome was observed when using the uncorrected dataset based on the GenBank haplotypes. We therefore suggest disregarding the existing GenBank data and instead using the correct haplotypes reported here. Our study serves as an illustrative example reiterating the importance of quality control through every step of a research project, from data generation to interpretation and submission to an online repository. Errors conducted in any step may lead to biased results and conclusions, and could impact management decisions.
Project description: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.
Project description:Recent population growth of the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena), grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) and common seal (Phoca vitulina) in the North Sea has increased potential interaction between these species. Grey seals are known to attack harbour porpoises. Some harbour porpoises survive initially, but succumb eventually, often showing severely infected skin lesions. Bacteria transferred from the grey seal oral cavity may be involved in these infections and eventual death of the animal. In humans, seal bites are known to cause severe infections. In this study, a 16S rRNA-based microbiome sequencing approach is used to identify the oral bacterial diversity in harbour porpoises, grey seals and common seals; detect the potential transfer of bacteria from grey seals to harbour porpoises by biting and provide insights in the bacteria with zoonotic potential present in the seal oral cavity. ?-diversity analysis showed that 12.9% (4/31) of the harbour porpoise skin lesion microbiomes resembled seal oral microbiomes, while most of the other skin lesion microbiomes also showed seal-associated bacterial species, including potential pathogens. In conclusion, this study shows that bacterial transmission from grey seals to harbour porpoises by biting is highly likely and that seal oral cavities harbour many bacterial pathogens with zoonotic potential.
Project description:A retrospective survey was performed on the presenting conditions of 205 live grey seal pups (Halichoerus grypus) admitted to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, United Kingdom between May 2005 and March 2011. The purpose of the survey was to examine the prevalence of various presenting signs at the sanctuary. The presenting signs were classified into nine non-mutually exclusive categories: ocular disorders, nasal disorders, oral disorders, respiratory disorders, orthopaedic disorders, puncture wounds, abrasions, netting injuries, and onychia. The sex ratio of seal pups in this study was 1.35 males per female. Of the 205 examined for rehabilitation, 22 (10.73%) did not survive to release. 68.78% of grey seal pups presented with puncture wounds, 47.80% with respiratory disorders, 46.34% with ocular disorders, 42.63% malnourished, 36.59% with abrasions, 25.37% with oral disorders, 23.90% with nasal disorders, 11.71% with orthopaedic disorders, 9.27% with onychia, and 3.41% presented with netting injuries. 52% were normothermic, 42% were hyperthermic, and 5% were hypothermic. Associations between gender, outcome of rehabilitation, hospitalisation time and presenting disorders were examined. In addition, admissions rates were found to display seasonality. The results of this study will aid in future preparation of grey seal rehabilitation facilities.
Project description:The biliary trematode Pseudamphistomum truncatum parasitizes a wide range of fish-eating mammals, including humans. Here we report the emergence of this parasite in grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) in the Baltic Sea. One hundred eighty-three of 1 554 grey seals (11.9%) examined from 2002-2013 had detectable hepatobiliary trematode infection. Parasite identification was confirmed as P. truncatum by sequencing the ITS2 region of a pool of five to 10 trematodes from each of ten seals collected off the coast of seven different Swedish counties. The proportion of seals parasitized by P. truncatum increased significantly over time and with increasing age of seals. Males were 3.1 times more likely to be parasitized than females and animals killed in fishery interactions were less likely to be parasitized than animals found dead or hunted. There was no significant difference in parasitism of seals examined from the Gulf of Bothnia versus those examined from the Baltic Proper. Although the majority of infections were mild, P. truncatum can cause severe hepatobiliary disease and resulted in liver failure in at least one seal. Because cyprinid fish are the second intermediate host for opisthorchiid trematodes, diets of grey seals from the Baltic Sea were analysed regarding presence of cyprinids. The proportion of gastrointestinal tracts containing cyprinid remains was ten times higher in seals examined from 2008 to 2013 (12.2%) than those examined from 2002 to 2007 (1.2%) and coincided with a general increase of trematode parasitism in the host population. The emergence and relatively common occurrence of P. truncatum in grey seals signals the presence of this parasite in the Baltic Sea ecosystem and demonstrates how aquatic mammals can serve as excellent sentinels of marine ecosystem change. Investigation of drivers behind P. truncatum emergence and infection risk for other mammals, including humans, is highly warranted.
Project description:Maternal behaviour is a crucial component of reproduction in all mammals; however the quality of care that mothers give to infants can vary greatly. It is vital to document variation in maternal behaviour caused by the physiological processes controlling its expression. This underlying physiology should be conserved throughout reproductive events and should be replicated across all individuals of a species; therefore, any correlates to maternal care quality may be present across many individuals or contexts. Oxytocin modulates the initiation and expression of maternal behaviour in mammals; therefore we tested whether maternal plasma oxytocin concentrations correlated to key maternal behaviours in wild grey seals (Halichoerus grypus). Plasma oxytocin concentrations in non-breeding individuals (4.3 ± 0.5 pg/ml) were significantly lower than those in mothers with dependent pups in both early (8.2 ± 0.8 pg/ml) and late (6.9 ± 0.7 pg/ml) lactation. Maternal plasma oxytocin concentrations were not correlated to the amount of nursing prior to sampling, or a mother's nursing intensity throughout the dependent period. Mothers with high plasma oxytocin concentrations stayed closer to their pups, reducing the likelihood of mother-pup separation during lactation which is credited with causing starvation, the largest cause of pup mortality in grey seals. This is the first study to link endogenous oxytocin concentrations in wild mammalian mothers with any type of maternal behaviour. Oxytocin's structure and function is widely conserved across mammalian mothers, including humans. Defining the impact the oxytocin system has on maternal behaviour highlights relationships that may occur across many individuals or species, and such behaviours heavily influence infant development and an individual's lifetime reproductive success.
Project description:The Eastern European Grey cattle are regarded as the direct descendants of the aurochs (Bos taurus primigenius). Nowadays in Romania, less than 100 Grey animals are being reared and included in the national gene reserve. We examined the genetic diversity among Romanian Grey, Brown, Spotted and Black and White cattle breeds, with a particular focus on Romanian Grey through the use of (i) 11 bovine specific microsatellite markers on 83 animals and (ii) 638 bp length of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) D-loop region sequence data from a total of 81 animals. Both microsatellite and mtDNA analysis revealed a high level of genetic variation in the studied breeds. In Romanian Grey a total of 100 alleles were found, the mean number of observed alleles per locus was 9.091; the average observed heterozygosity was 0.940; the Wright's fixation index (FIS) was negative (-0.189) and indicates that there is no inbreeding and no selection pressure. MtDNA analysis revealed 52 haplotypes with 67 variable sites among the Romanian cattle breeds without any insertion or deletion. Haplotype diversity was 0.980 ± 0.007 and ranged from 0.883 ± 0.056 (Brown) to 0.990 ± 0.028 (Spotted and Black and White). The highest genetic variability of the mtDNA was recorded in the Grey breed, where 18 haplotypes were identified. The most frequent mtDNA D-loop region belonged to T3 haplogroup (80.247%), which was found across all studied breeds, while T2 haplotypes (16.049%) was only found in Grey, Spotted and Black and White genotypes. The T1 haplotypes (3.704%) were found in the Grey and Spotted. The current results contribute to the general knowledge on genetic diversity found in Eastern European cattle breeds and could prove a valuable tool for the conservation efforts of animal genetic resources (FAnGR).
Project description:The systematic analysis of museum collections can provide important insights into the dental and skeletal pathology of wild mammals. Here we present a previously unreported type of dental defect and related skull pathology in five juvenile Baltic grey seals that had been collected in the course of a seal culling program along the Danish coast in 1889 and 1890. All five skulls exhibited openings into the pulp cavities at the crown tips of all (four animals) or two (one animal) canines as well as several incisors and (in one animal) also some anterior premolars. The affected teeth showed wide pulp cavities and thin dentin. Pulp exposure had caused infection, inflammation, and finally necrosis of the pulp. As was evidenced by the extensive radiolucency around the roots of the affected teeth, the inflammation had extended from the pulp into the periapical space, leading to apical periodontitis with extensive bone resorption. Further spreading of the inflammation into the surrounding bone regions had then caused suppurative osteomyelitis of the jaws. The postcanine teeth of the pathological individuals typically had dentin of normal thickness and, except for one specimen, did not exhibit pulp exposure. The condition may have been caused by a late onset of secondary and tertiary dentin formation that led to pulp exposure in anterior teeth exposed to intense wear. Future investigations could address a possible genetic causation of the condition in the studied grey seals.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>The heterogeneous oceanographic conditions of continental shelf ecosystems result in a three-dimensionally patchy distribution of prey available to upper-trophic level predators. The association of bio-physical conditions with movement patterns of large marine predators has been demonstrated in diverse taxa. However, obtaining subsurface data that are spatio-temporally relevant to the decisions made by benthically-foraging species can be challenging.<h4>Methods</h4>Between 2009 and 2015, grey seals were captured on Sable Island, Nova Scotia, Canada during summer and fall and instrumented with high-resolution archival GPS tags. These tags recorded location data as well as depth (m), temperature (°C), and light level measurements during dives, until animals returned to the haulout site to breed. Hidden Markov models were used to predict apparent foraging along movement tracks for 79 individuals (59 females, 20 males) every 3 h. In situ measurements were used to estimate chlorophyll-<i>a</i> concentration (mg?m<sup>-?3</sup>) and temperature within the upper-water column (50?m) and temperature and depth at the bottom of dives. As chlorophyll-<i>a</i> could only be estimated from 10:00 to 14:00 AST for dive depths ?50?m, we formulated two generalized linear mixed-effects models to test the association of predicted grey seal behavioural states with oceanographic conditions and phytoplankton biomass: the first representing conditions of the upper-water column likely to influence primary productivity, and a second model including environmental conditions encountered by grey seals at the bottom of dives, when seals were more likely to be foraging.<h4>Results</h4>Predicted grey seal behavioural states were associated with fine-scale chlorophyll-<i>a</i> concentrations and other environmental conditions they encountered across the continental shelf. In the Water Column Model, season had no influence on the probability of observing apparent foraging, but chlorophyll-<i>a</i>, upper-water column temperature, and sex did, with females having a greater probability of foraging than males. In the Bottom Conditions Model, again season had no influence on the probability of apparent foraging, but females were over twice as likely as males to be foraging.<h4>Conclusions</h4>The results of this study highlight the value of in situ measurements of oceanographic properties that can be collected at high temporal resolution by animal-borne data loggers. These data provide insight into how inferred behavioural decisions made by large marine predators, such as the grey seal, may be influenced by fine-scale oceanographic conditions.
Project description:Data independent acquisition (DIA) mass spectrometry is a powerful technique that is improving the reproducibility and throughput of proteomics studies. Here, we introduce an experimental workflow that uses this technique to construct chromatogram libraries that capture fragment ion chromatographic peak shape and retention time for every detectable peptide in a proteomics experiment. These coordinates calibrate protein databases or spectrum libraries to a specific mass spectrometer and chromatography setup, facilitating DIA-only pipelines and the reuse of global resource libraries. We also present EncyclopeDIA, a software tool for generating and searching chromatogram libraries, and demonstrate the performance of our workflow by quantifying proteins in human and yeast cells. We find that by exploiting calibrated retention time and fragmentation specificity in chromatogram libraries, EncyclopeDIA can detect 20-25% more peptides from DIA experiments than with data dependent acquisition-based spectrum libraries alone.