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Forensic Identification of Seal Oils Using Lipid Profiles and Statistical Models

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 58 Issue: 2 Dated: March 2013 Pages: 336-343
Margaret H. Broadwater, Ph.D.; Gloria T. Seaborn, B.A.; John H. Schwacke, Ph.D.
Date Published
March 2013
8 pages
This research investigates a reliable method to identify oils originating from seals versus fish.
Seal blubber oils are used as a source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in Canada but prohibited in the United States and FA European Union. Thus, a reliable method is needed to identify oils originating from seals versus fish. Two lipid profiling methods, fatty acid analysis using gas chromatography and triacylglycerol TAG analysis using liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry, were applied with statistical models to discriminate commercial oils and blubber samples harvested from marine fish and seals. Significant differences were observed among FA profiles, and seal samples differed from each of the fish oils (p less than 0.001). FA and TAG profiles were used to discriminate sample groups using a random forest classifier; all samples were classified correctly as seals versus fish using both methods. Researchers propose a two-step method for the accurate identification of seal oils, with preliminary identification based on FA profile analysis and confirmation with TAG profiles. Abstract published by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons.