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Shark dissection inspires keen young future scientists.

5 March 2018

University of Waikato marine biologists with the bronze whaler, centre stage.

Hundreds of people turned out in person, and many more from a distance, to see science unfold in front of them. The crowds gathered to see University of Waikato marine biologists from the Coastal Marine Field Station dissect a shark.

The 2.54 metre long bronze whaler (Carcharhinus brachyurus) was found on the beach on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula last year and is believed to have died after being caught in a fishing net. It was donated by the Department of Conservation and the Auckland Museum to the University’s Coastal Marine Field Station.

The event took part in Tauranga as part of Seaweek. The first half of the dissection focused on the bronze whaler’s external features such as the fins, teeth, gills and skin, along with the shark’s six senses and brain. The second half focused on the liver, stomach, kidneys and reproductive organs.

When the marine biologists looked at the stomach contents they found the frames of a snapper and a mullet. They were still very easy to identify so it was an exciting moment for the audience.

They also did an experiment with the liver, where they demonstrated how it floats in a bowl of sea water due to its high oil content highlighting how important this organ is for buoyancy.  They compared it to a sheep liver which has a low oil content which of course sank to the bottom.

At the venue, many in the crowd were children and teenagers, excited by the chance to learn more about the shark and the science involved in the dissection. Some of those who couldn’t see through the walls of people simply went home and got an even better view through the University’s Facebook feed.


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