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Molecular Forensics into the Sea: How Molecular Markers Can Help to Struggle Against Poaching and Illegal Trade in Precious Corals?

AuthorsLedoux, J. B. ; Antunes, Agostinho; Haguenauer, A.; Pratlong, Marine; Costantini, Federica; Abbiati, M.; Aurelle, D.
Issue DateSep-2016
CitationThe Cnidaria, Past, Present and Future 45: 729-745 (2016)
AbstractPrecious corals encompass various species belonging to three different orders (Alcyonacea, Zoanthidea and Antipatharia) of the Anthozoan class. These sessile cnidarians are one of the most valuable marine resources due to the use of their skeleton for jewelry and handcrafted artifacts. The exploitation of precious corals beds generally follows a boom and bust cycle resulting in a worldwide overexploitation of this natural resource. The sustainability of coral fisheries is therefore unambiguously questioned. Discussions regarding international regulations on harvesting or trade have regularly risen in the last decades. As an example, the genus Corallium, which includes some of the most harvested and valuables precious coral species, was unsuccessfully proposed for listing in Appendix II of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 2007 and 2009. To date, there is no international consensus on the management of coral beds (but see 2011 FAO-GFCM recommendations for the Mediterranean Sea). Each country manages independently its stocks of precious corals inducing contrasted conservation policies. Considering the benefit in trading precious corals and the low enforcement of existing regulations, poaching is very attractive and globally expanding, principally within marine protected areas where populations are healthier and colonies are generally bigger. In this context, innovative management tools and strategies should be developed to ensure the protection of these species. Recent advances in wildlife forensics sciences and more particularly in molecular forensics methods and associated statistical analyses open new avenues to struggle against poaching and illegal trade in precious corals. We will introduce this chapter with general considerations regarding the exploitation of biological resources and accordingly the aims of molecular forensics applied in conservation biology. Then, we will present the methods used for species identification with particular emphasize on DNA barcoding methods. We will discuss the application of these methods for precious coral identification. Considering the genetic data available in precious corals, we will illustrate our discussion with an example of DNA barcoding in Corallium/Paracorallium species. We will present the atypical evolutionary features of the mitochondrial genome of these species and the implications for species identification. Once species have been identified, the identification of the geographical origin of individuals or populations may be of interest in order to distinguish between legal and illegal (e.g. within marine protected area) harvesting. In a third part, we will therefore expose different molecular and statistical methods that can be used to assign individuals to their populations of origin. As a case study, we will present the data resulting from the genotyping of nuclear microsatellite loci in the red coral, Corallium rubrum, a precious coral inhabiting the Mediterranean Sea and part of the Eastern Atlantic. The genetic structure and the repartition of the genetic diversity of C. rubrum are thoroughly characterized over the Western Mediterranean Basin. We will discuss the potential of this database of genotypes to characterize the origin of red coral colonies using different assignment methods. An empirical evaluation will be performed to test the statistical power of this dataset. The last part of the chapter will be focused on the perspectives offered by the development of next generation sequencing methods for the molecular forensics in precious corals
Description17 pages, 2 figures, 5 boxes
Publisher version (URL)https://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-31305-4_45
Identifiersdoi: 10.1007/978-3-319-31305-4_45
isbn: 978-3-319-31303-0
isbn: 978-3-319-31305-4
Appears in Collections:(ICM) Libros y partes de libros
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