Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New forensic technique gives clues about sharks from bite damage

02.12.2009
Hit-and-run attacks by sharks can be solved with a new technique that identifies the culprits by the unique chomp they put on their victims, according to a University of Florida researcher and shark expert.

In a method analogous to analyzing human fingerprints, scientists can make identifications by precisely comparing shark bites to the jaws and teeth of the powerful predators, said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File, which is housed at UF’s Florida Museum of Natural History.

“Every time we investigate a shark attack one of the pieces of information that we want to have is what species was involved and what size it was,” he said. “Because I’ve been looking at shark attack victims for 30 years I can estimate what did the damage, but I have never been able to actually prove it.”

Now scientists can say with a degree of certainty whether the beast was a 14-foot tiger shark or a 9-foot bull shark, a distinction that has unforeseen emotional, ecological and even monetary benefits, said Burgess, who collaborated with researchers from the University of South Florida. Their findings are published in the November issue of Marine Biology.

“There’s a psychological need for many shark attack victims to know what bit them,” Burgess said. “One of the few things shark attack victims have going for them after a bite is bragging rights and the bragging rights include knowing what did the damage.”

Because of the hype surrounding shark attacks, off-the-cuff estimates of shark size are often exaggerated, he said. “This will give an actual basis for determining what species was involved and the size, not that that’s going to affect the size claimed by the victim in a bar,” he said.

Using dried shark jaws from museums and private collections, the researchers were able to identify bite patterns of particular sizes and species of sharks by measuring jaw circumference and the distance between the six frontal teeth on the top and lower jaws, Burgess said. They experimented on 10 to 24 sets of shark jaws for each of the 14 species they analyzed. The technique works not only on human and animal tissue, but also on inanimate objects like surfboards and underground cable lines, he said.

The ability to make predictions from bite patterns is important to understanding the behavioral underpinnings of shark attacks and their prey habits, said lead researcher Dayv Lowry, a biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, who did the work as a graduate student at the University of South Florida.

“Often someone will send us a picture of a dolphin carcass or a sea turtle and want to know what kind of shark bit it,” Lowry said. “Knowing that it’s a large tiger shark, for example, would help us figure out what large tiger sharks like to eat and how they attack their prey. If an animal or person has been bitten on the rear end, then we know these sharks are likely to sneak up to get their prey instead of facing the victims.”

Being able to determine what size shark attacked people in certain geographic areas such as South Africa where offshore nets are used to protect swimmers is valuable because it may influence the size mesh that is used, Lowry said. With larger sharks, beaches can get by with bigger mesh sizes, which are cheaper and less environmentally intrusive, he said.

The technique also has the potential to save thousands of dollars in damages caused by the sharks’ penchant for attacking underwater electronic equipment, which includes intercontinental telephone wires, top-secret communication lines between government officials and sensors companies use to uncover oil fields, Burgess said.

Sharks are equipped with organs on the underside of their snouts – gel filled pits called ampullae of Lorenzini – that allow them to detect electromagnetic fields from their intended food, Burgess said. Unfortunately, sharks often do not distinguish between the signals sent by prey and equipment, which can be ruined by water seeping in through the bite marks, he said.

“That’s one thing that makes them special — they can sense electro-magnetic fields around their prey items,” he said.

Laying cable lines at the bottom of the ocean is extremely expensive, and having to remove a piece, fix it and install it again adds to the cost, Burgess said. “Knowing that a certain species of shark did the damage is useful because in the future cable lines can be placed in a different location, outside the path of that particular shark’s area of distribution,” he said.

And the ability to determine what size shark was involved in an attack by the size and configuration of its bite marks could result in the installation of a heavier seal designed to withstand damage from that kind of shark, he said.

Credits

Writer
Cathy Keen, ckeen@ufl.edu, 352-392-0186
Source
George Burgess, gburgess@flmnh.ufl.edu, 352-392-2360

George Burgess | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ufl.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short
23.03.2017 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

nachricht WPI team grows heart tissue on spinach leaves
23.03.2017 | Worcester Polytechnic Institute

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short

23.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Researchers use light to remotely control curvature of plastics

23.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Sea ice extent sinks to record lows at both poles

23.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>