Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Mercury is higher in some tuna species, according to DNA barcoding

21.04.2010
New research provides insight into healthier consumption of sushi

New research showing that that mercury levels are higher in some species of tuna could help consumers minimize their consumption of the silvery metal in their sushi and provide a powerful new tool for regulatory organizations.

The new research—combining DNA barcoding at that American Museum of Natural History with analysis of mercury content at Rutgers University—is published in Biology Letters early online edition and shows surprisingly that tuna sushi purchased in supermarkets might be healthier than that from restaurants. The sushi made for supermarkets tends to be yellowfin tuna.

"We found that mercury levels are linked to specific species," says Jacob Lowenstein, a graduate student affiliated with the Museum. "So far, the U.S. does not require restaurants and merchants to clarify what species they are selling or trading, but species names and clearer labeling would allow consumers to exercise greater control over the level of mercury they imbibe."

"People who eat fish frequently have a particular need to know which species may be high in contaminants," says Michael Gochfeld, professor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. "Some agencies have been afraid that any mention of contaminants will discourage people from eating any fish.

Sushi samples for this research project were taken from 54 restaurants and 15 supermarkets in New York, New Jersey, and Colorado. The results are based on 100 samples, all of which were identified with DNA barcoding as either bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus), yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares), or bluefin tuna species (Thunnus maccoyii, Thunnus orientalis, and Thunnus thynnus). All samples were tested for relative mercury content.

Combining mercury content and species identification in this study shows that all species exceed or approach levels permissible by Canada, the E.U., Japan, the U.S., and the World Health Organization. Mercury levels are significantly higher in bluefin akami (sushi from lean, dark red tuna) and all bigeye tuna samples than in bluefin toro (sushi from fatty tuna) and yellowfin tuna akami samples. This is probably because mercury accumulates differently in different tissue types: mercury has an affinity for muscle and not fatty tissue, so the leanest fish tend to have the highest concentration.

But there also seem to be other factors in play. Although yellowfin tuna is very lean, this species tends to have lower accumulation of mercury, likely because yellowfin are typically smaller than other tuna and are harvested at a younger age. Furthermore, yellowfin are tropical and do not thermoregulate like the warm-blooded bigeye tuna and bluefin tuna. Because bigeye and bluefin species eat three times more than yellowfin to maintain their energy level, they might bioaccumulate, or slowly increase the level of toxins over time.

"Although levels are highest in top-level predatory fish, some fish that are lower on the food chain have high levels," says Joanna Burger, professor at Rutgers University. "The levels of mercury in some tuna are sufficiently high to provide a health risk both to the fish themselves and to the predators that eat them, including humans, particularly those who eat fish frequently."

"We show how you can use DNA as a tool to uncover patterns of species-specific bioaccumulation," says Sergios-Orestis Kolokotronis, a geneticist at the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics at the Museum. "This is one of first applications of DNA barcodes in a non-academic setting—using this method in any human health context and not just for determining whether barcodes can quickly and accurately identify a species."

In addition to Kolokotronis, Gochfeld, Burger, and Lowenstein, authors include George Amato, director of the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics at the Museum, and Christian Jeitner of the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute at Rutgers University. This research was funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, Columbia University, Rutgers University, and the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences. The New York Times' food editor Marian Burros collected 20 of the samples for a story on mercury in sushi which were later barcoded and included in this analysis.

Kristin Elise Phillips | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.amnh.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Single-stranded DNA and RNA origami go live
15.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard

nachricht New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists
15.12.2017 | Louisiana State University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>