Something’s Fishy at the Science Museum…

October 5th, 2010 by Nicholas Merkelson

On October 1st, students from Roosevelt School (Bridgeport, CT) came to the Museum to participate in the first shark dissection of the 2010-2011 school year. By the looks on their smiling faces it was clear this group of young scientists were ready for a rare treat!

Mr. Dave, a trained marine biologist, led the 7th and 8th grade class through an hour-long lesson about shark anatomy and biology. Students were eager – or hesitant in some cases! – to explore the shark’s coiled, spiral-like stomach and its oil-filled liver. Mr. Dave warned the students of leaking liver oil, which sharks produce in great quantities to help control their buoyancy in the water.* The girls were squeamish to learn that the very same oil can be found in vitamins and cosmetic products they buy in stores!

The lesson was not all slicing and dicing, however, as Mr. Dave urged students to be aware of the conservation issues facing global shark populations. He noted that these specimens were raised in captivity rather than hunted in the wild, and that although sharks are often killed as an exotic food item or for other use by humans, in the United States we have set higher standards for shark conservation and do not practice shark hunting.

At the end of the day, all of the students left with a greater understanding of why and how sharks are studied by scientists at SMLI and beyond.

* H. David Baldridge, Jr., 1970. Sinking factors and average densities of Florida sharks as functions of liver buoyancy. Copeia 4 (Dec. 12, 1970), pp. 774-754.

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