The monk seal, Monachus monachus, is one of the world's most endangered species of pinniped, and the only one endemic to the Mediterranean Sea. Once abundant in the basin, the monk seal was eradicated from most of its former range well before the Second World War.
Today direct observations are still relatively few, and thus the species distribution, habitat use, and movements remain poorly known. In this context of paucity of data, One Ocean Foundation has supported the “SPOT the MONK” initiative carried out by Dr Elena Valsecchi of University of Milano-Bicocca in collaboration with Gruppo Foca Monaca APS, providing environmental DNA samples collected at Canyon of Caprera (Sardinia).
Since 2019, in fact, One Ocean Foundation is active in the area with different scientific activities led by the Foundation’s Scientific Coordinator Dr. Ginevra Boldrocchi, aimed at gathering data to protect the local marine biodiversity. One of the current research activities includes the environmental DNA sampling carried out on a monthly basis in multiple areas of the Canyon.
Our new publication “Playing hide and seek with the Mediterranean monk seal” published on Scientific Reports revealed that the monk seal not only is regularly present in the Canyon of Caprera, but positive detections were found in at least 2 of the 3 sampling stations. Overall, eDNA results suggests that the Canyon of Caprera might represent an important feeding ground and an “hotspot” for this species in the Mediterranean Sea.