Molecular methods for differentiating grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) and harbour seal (Phoca vitulina) scat


E. Dashiell Pappas Masland, Fax: 207 633 9641; E-mail:


Pinniped dietary information is crucial for understanding marine ecosystems; however, in the North Atlantic, grey and harbour seals haulout concomitantly and their faeces are visually indistinguishable. Therefore, we developed molecular methods to differentiate the species’ scat. PCR primers were created that amplify a portion of mitochondrial 16S ribosomal DNA in grey and harbour seals. The samples were amplified and the resulting products were digested using the restriction enzyme Tsp509I, producing diagnostic banding patterns. These tools provide a mechanism by which separate dietary analysis can be achieved for grey and harbour seals at mixed haulouts in New England.