Sardines and horse mackerel identified using forensic techniques

May 24, 2011

A team of researchers from Galicia in Spain have used forensic mitochondrial DNA species identification techniques to distinguish between sardines and horse mackerel. This method makes it possible to genetically differentiate between the fish, even if they are canned or processed, which makes it easier to monitor the degree to which fisheries resources are being exploited.

DNA from the – cell organelles – is ideal for distinguishing between . One of its components in particular, cytochrome b, is a genetic marker that scientists use to establish relationships between genera and families, and is also used by some forensic laboratories to identify animals that appear at crime scenes (cats or insects, for example).

Now, for the first time, researchers from the National Association of Manufacturers of Canned and Shellfish (ANFACO-CECOPESCA, ) have used this technique in order to genetically identify small pelagic (non-coastal) species, such as sardines and horse mackerel. This study was supported by the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) and Spain's Ministry of the Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs (MARM).

"These molecular tools represent a great step forward for the sector, since they enable fisheries imports to be monitored and tracked, and also ensure they are correctly labelled", Montserrat Espiñeira, a biologist for ANFACO-CECOPESCA and lead researcher of the study, tells SINC.

By using this method, the team was able to identify more than 20 species from the sardine group (genera such as Sardina, Sardinella, Clupea, Ophistonoma and Ilisha) and a similar number of horse mackerel species (Trachurus, Caranx, Mullus, Rastrelliger and others), originating from seas all over the world.

The methodology involved gathering a sample of from the fish (even if it was canned or processed), amplifying a fragment of cytochrome b (using a polymerase chain reaction – PCR) and, lastly, carrying out a phylogenetic analysis by obtaining a "forensically informative nucleotide sequencing" (FINS).

The research on the was published this month in the journal European Food Research and Technology, while the one on the horse mackerel was issued in March in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

The researchers are now focusing on analysing the distinct organoleptic, microbiological, physical-chemical and nutritional properties of the species analysed, and are also looking into whether some currently unexploited species could be of interest from a consumer perspective. "The end goal is to improve the management of fisheries resources and ensure they are sustainably exploited", explains Espiñeira.

The team is also developing rapid molecular identification methodologies (based on the Real Time-PCR technique), which will make it possible to distinguish between the most commercially-valuable small pelagic fish species – the European anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus), the European sardine (Sardina pilchardus) and the main species of horse mackerel (Trachurus trachurus) – simply and in less than three hours.

Explore further: A new molecular technique detects Anisakis in all fish

More information:
Fátima C. Lago, Beatriz Herrero, Juan M. Vieites, Montserrat Espiñeira. "FINS methodology to identification of sardines and related species in canned products and detection of mixture by means of SNP analysis systems". European Food Research and Technology, May 2011 (on line). DOI: 10.1007/s00217-011-1481-1

Ftima C. Lago, Beatriz Herrero, Juan M. Vieites, Montserrat Espiñeira. "Genetic Identification of Horse Mackerel and Related Species in Seafood Products by Means of Forensically Informative Nucleotide Sequencing Methodology". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 59 (6): 2223, March 2011. DOI: 10.1021/jf104505q

Related Stories

A new molecular technique detects Anisakis in all fish

July 15, 2010

A new method enables anisakids to be detected in any fish product, from a whole fish, fresh or frozen, to tinned fish and surimi. Developed by Spanish scientists, the system is based on molecular techniques and overcomes ...

A consumer's guide to seafood

December 2, 2010

A University of Queensland academic has contributed to Australia's first comprehensive consumer guide to seafood.

Recommended for you

Blueprint for shape in ancient land plants

December 9, 2016

Scientists from the Universities of Bristol and Cambridge have unlocked the secrets of shape in the most ancient of land plants using time-lapse imaging, growth analysis and computer modelling.

Protein disrupts infectious biofilms

December 8, 2016

Many infectious pathogens are difficult to treat because they develop into biofilms, layers of metabolically active but slowly growing bacteria embedded in a protective layer of slime, which are inherently more resistant ...

An anti-CRISPR for gene editing

December 8, 2016

Researchers have discovered a way to program cells to inhibit CRISPR-Cas9 activity. "Anti-CRISPR" proteins had previously been isolated from viruses that infect bacteria, but now University of Toronto and University of Massachusetts ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.