The study of the DNA of fish and cetaceans will improve the health of the Mediterranean

For the next four years, Triton Research will be involved in the European project LIFE Conceptu Maris....

The Triton association at work in Gallura: ‘Discovering habits and their challenges’

Olbia: Laboratory examination of species’ DNA to find crucial clues and save the future of our seas. It resembles remarkably an episode of ‘CSI – Crime Scene Investigation’, yet it’s the daily activity of the Triton association in the Gallura waters, and beyond, with constant monitoring of temperature and the marine ecosystem to identify necessary measures for safeguarding marine species. An ambitious and essential project, as highlighted by Raffaele Grandi, president of the Triton association: ‘Our commitment is to facilitate the dissemination of scientific knowledge and bring it closer to people, starting with young individuals because they are the future of this planet and must be the protagonists of this cultural awareness. However, it is essential that everyone realizes that the sea is fundamental for human life’.

For the next four years, Triton will be involved in the European project ‘Life Conceptu Maris,’ as explained by the Scientific Director Stefano Picchi: ‘The negative effects caused by human activities on marine animals, starting with cetaceans and turtles, are increasingly evident. It’s urgent to better understand the distribution of the most common species to develop effective conservation strategies. In the Mediterranean, large cetaceans such as fin whales and sperm whales live and reproduce; these animals reach up to 20 meters in length and, like dolphins and sea turtles, spend much of their lives in open seas, in areas that are difficult to monitor due to their vastness’.

The study of DNA will be crucial in the project: ‘The detection of microscopic traces of DNA dispersed in water by animals (eDNA) and the use of hull-mounted sensors to collect samples derived from biological material, such as scales, skin patches, feces, eggs, dispersed by organisms’ explains Picchi. ‘This will allow us to build maps of environmental characteristics that can better define the distribution of the most common species of cetaceans and marine turtles in our seas, assess the impact of risk factors, and identify the most important sites for the conservation of the most threatened species’ To accomplish this mission, Triton has established relationships and collaborations with the most important Italian and international organizations, starting from the Tavolara – Punta Coda Cavallo Marine Protected Area (MPA) and the University of Sassari. The team of expert professors actively involved in the analysis of collected and monitored data includes marine zoologist Marco Casu and geneticists Daria Sanna and Fabio Scarpa. ‘Our role is to ensure that the collected data becomes indications of the living conditions at sea, proposing concrete actions to make marine repopulation possible’ they explain.

The issues are well-known: ‘Climate change, plastics, pollution, and overfishing by humans. Through collaboration among institutions, we are identifying locations to attempt to regrow populations of the most suffering species, such as the ‘Pinna nobilis’ and the ‘Patella ferruginea,’ using laboratory analysis results.’


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