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DNA Determines Origin of Ambergris Used in Perfumes

DNA Determines Origin of Ambergris Used in Perfumes

Saturday, 8 February, 2020 - 06:45
A blue whale swims off the coast of Mirissa in southern Sri Lanka. Photo: Reuters
Cairo - Hazem Badr

A team of researchers from Denmark, the UK and Ireland has identified the origin of ambergris, by analyzing the DNA sequences from ambergris samples found on beaches in New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

Ambergris is a lump of material often found on beaches. Because of its rarity, it is extremely valuable, and dogs and even camels have been trained to use their strong senses of smell to find it.

Over human history, ambergris has been valued for its musky scent, and has been used in perfumes industry. Based on whalers' anecdotes, samples of ambergris were found in whale guts. But until now, it had never been proven that the whales actually created the material.

The study published on Wednesday in the journal Biology Letters, said samples of ambergris have been found in the back end of sperm whales, suggesting it might be nothing more than condensed feces. The researchers used DNA sequencing to test whether ambergris found on beaches is the same material as that found in whales.

According to a report published by the Science X Network website, the work involved obtaining small samples from ambergris lumps found on beaches in New Zealand and Sri Lanka and conducting DNA sequencing. The researchers then compared their findings with DNA sequences from sperm whales.

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