For the first time, DNA tools have successfully pinpointed the geographic origin of shark fins sold dried in markets to satisfy the demand for shark fin soup, a Chinese delicacy.
Using CSI-like genetic methods, scientists have traced scalloped hammerhead shark fins from a burgeoning Hong Kong fish market to the sharks' original populations, some of which are endangered and located in waters thousands of miles away, according to a new study published in the journal Endangered Species Research.
"Shark fins are popular because serving fin soup at important events, such as weddings and banquets, is a sign of wealth and status," lead author Demian Chapman told Discovery News. "Think of it as a Lexus in a bowl."
Chapman, who is an assistant director at Stony Brook University's Institute for Ocean Conservation Science, and his colleagues analyzed mitochondrial DNA sequences, passed from mother to offspring, for 177 live scalloped hammerheads in the Western Atlantic. They also took fingernail-sized DNA samples from 62 shark fins of this species obtained at a Hong Kong fish market.