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 Brought to light – chromobodies reveal changes in endogenous protein concentration in living cells
21.09.2018 | NMI Naturwissenschaftliches und Medizinisches Institut an der Universität Tübingen

nachricht A one-way street for salt
21.09.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Scientists present new observations to understand the phase transition in quantum chromodynamics

The building blocks of matter in our universe were formed in the first 10 microseconds of its existence, according to the currently accepted scientific picture. After the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago, matter consisted mainly of quarks and gluons, two types of elementary particles whose interactions are governed by quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the theory of strong interaction. In the early universe, these particles moved (nearly) freely in a quark-gluon plasma.

This is a joint press release of University Muenster and Heidelberg as well as the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt.

Then, in a phase transition, they combined and formed hadrons, among them the building blocks of atomic nuclei, protons and neutrons. In the current issue of...

Im Focus: Patented nanostructure for solar cells: Rough optics, smooth surface

Thin-film solar cells made of crystalline silicon are inexpensive and achieve efficiencies of a good 14 percent. However, they could do even better if their shiny surfaces reflected less light. A team led by Prof. Christiane Becker from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) has now patented a sophisticated new solution to this problem.

"It is not enough simply to bring more light into the cell," says Christiane Becker. Such surface structures can even ultimately reduce the efficiency by...

Im Focus: New soft coral species discovered in Panama

A study in the journal Bulletin of Marine Science describes a new, blood-red species of octocoral found in Panama. The species in the genus Thesea was discovered in the threatened low-light reef environment on Hannibal Bank, 60 kilometers off mainland Pacific Panama, by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (STRI) and the Centro de Investigación en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología (CIMAR) at the University of Costa Rica.

Scientists established the new species, Thesea dalioi, by comparing its physical traits, such as branch thickness and the bright red colony color, with the...

Im Focus: New devices based on rust could reduce excess heat in computers

Physicists explore long-distance information transmission in antiferromagnetic iron oxide

Scientists have succeeded in observing the first long-distance transfer of information in a magnetic group of materials known as antiferromagnets.

Im Focus: Finding Nemo's genes

An international team of researchers has mapped Nemo's genome

An international team of researchers has mapped Nemo's genome, providing the research community with an invaluable resource to decode the response of fish to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

"Boston calling": TU Berlin and the Weizenbaum Institute organize a conference in USA

21.09.2018 | Event News

One of the world’s most prominent strategic forums for global health held in Berlin in October 2018

03.09.2018 | Event News

4th Intelligent Materials - European Symposium on Intelligent Materials

27.08.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Astrophysicists measure precise rotation pattern of sun-like stars for the first time

21.09.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Brought to light – chromobodies reveal changes in endogenous protein concentration in living cells

21.09.2018 | Life Sciences

"Boston calling": TU Berlin and the Weizenbaum Institute organize a conference in USA

21.09.2018 | Event News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>