A Mediterranean Monk Seal Pup on the Apulia coast (Southern Italy): sign of an ongoing recolonisation?

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Abstract

The Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) is one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world. This species has been threatened since ancient times by human activities and currently amounts to approximately 700 individuals distributed in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea (Aegean and Ionian Sea) and Eastern Atlantic Ocean (Cabo Blanco and Madeira). In other areas, where the species is considered “probably extinct”, an increase in sporadic sightings has been recorded during recent years. Sightings and accidental catches of Mediterranean monk seals have become more frequent in the Adriatic Sea, mainly in Croatia but also along the coasts of Montenegro, Albania and Southern Italy. A Mediterranean monk seal pup was recovered on 27 January 2020 on the beach of Torre San Gennaro in Torchiarolo (Brindisi, Apulia, Italy). DNA was extracted from a tissue sample and the hypervariable region I (HVR1) of the mitochondrial DNA control region was amplified and sequenced. The alignment performed with seven previous published haplotypes showed that the individual belongs to the haplotype MM03, common in monk seals inhabiting the Greek islands of the Ionian Sea. This result indicates the Ionian Islands as the most probable geographical origin of the pup, highlighting the need to intensify research and conservation activities on this species even in areas where it seemed to be extinct.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalDiversity
Volume12
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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