Map of Chemicals in Jellyfish Could be the Future to Protecting UK Waters and Marine Life

Below is a press release about the Methods in Ecology and Evolution article ‘Spatial models of carbon, nitrogen and sulphur stable isotope distributions (isoscapes) across a shelf sea: An INLA approach‘ taken from the University of Southampton.

Jellyfish opportunistically caught in UK waters are used to map chemical variations across marine space. ©University of Southampton

Jellyfish opportunistically caught in UK waters are used to map chemical variations across marine space. ©University of Southampton

Scientists at the University of Southampton have developed maps of chemicals found in jellyfish which could offer a new tool for conservation in British waters and fisheries. The maps will also be able to detect fraudulently labelled food in retail outlets by helping to trace the origins of seafood.

The Southampton based research team including Dr Clive Trueman, Dr Katie St. John Glew and Dr Laura Graham, built maps of the chemical variations in jellyfish caught in an area of approximately 1 million km2 of the UK shelf seas. These chemical signals vary according to where the fish has been feeding due to differences in the marine environment’s chemistry, biology and physical processes.

Dr Katie St John Glew explains “The chemical differences detected in the jellyfish are also present in other animals throughout the food chain, like seabirds, seals and fishes. This means that we can measure the same signals in, for example feathers from seabirds or fresh fish fillets, then match them back to the jellyfish map and work out where the birds have been feeding or where the fish was most likely caught.”

This method could help to trace the origin of fish in supermarkets and fishmongers. ©Jorge Royan

This method could help to trace the origin of fish in supermarkets and fishmongers. ©Jorge Royan

The developers hope that the maps will help policy makers at authorities such as the Marine Management Organisation and Marine Stewardship Council learn more about the movement of local marine animals and support conservation efforts. They could also provide a new way to trace the origin of fish sold in supermarkets and fishmongers which will also help detect food fraud occurring in products sourced from, or claiming to be sourced from, British waters.

This research is based on a well-established process for forensically analysing food produced on land such as meat, honey and wine but which has not yet been applied to seafood.

Dr Trueman said “In our changing political climate, it is likely that the authorities will need new ways to manage our waters so it will be critical to have a better understanding our local marine environment and those animals that live within it. Being able to verify where seafood products have been caught may also become essential for protecting our fisheries and combating food fraud in a future with more borders, boundaries and regulations.”

Dr Rona McGill from NERC Life Sciences Mass Spectrometry Facility (LSMSF) in East Kilbride, Glasgow was also involved in the research for and writing of Spatial models of carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur stable isotope distributions (isoscapes) across a shelf sea: an INLA approach. The study was funded by a NERC SPITFIRE PhD award and a NERC LSMSF grant.

Read the full Open Access article: 

St John Glew K, Graham, L, McGill R and Trueman C. Spatial models of carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur stable isotope distributions (isoscapes) across a shelf sea: an INLA approachMethods Ecol Evol2019.

Media contact:
University of Southampton press office, Email: press@soton.ac.uk

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