Don't like the picture?
Look again: yes that's a tooth falling out of the Shark's mouth! The shadow even identifies it as a tooth from the lower jaw! Click on the pic for better detail - and well done Lill!
Sharks regularly break, lose and discard their teeth and this is especially true during our dive where they chomp down on bony and often partially frozen Tuna heads. Not to worry, they got dozens of spares lodged in a revolver dentition, and a replacement one will spring into action in as short as 24 hours! Apparently, it is estimated that some Sharks can end up producing up to 20,000 teeth during their lifetime! Amazing!
Those of you who have been on our dive know that our feeders have learned to scoop up the teeth "on the fly" and will comb the pit for any overlooked goodies after the clients ascend. Most of the teeth will end up as trophies in the hands of a friendly tahine but as of two months ago, we have started to keep the biggest and freshest ones for Juerg.
True to our belief that when collecting data, we need to always choose the least invasive techniques, we have stopped taking tissue samples by "sticking" the Sharks but have started to collect Shark DNA from the discarded teeth instead.
Apparently, this is a completely novel technique and only time will tell if the substitution will yield adequate results - but as long as there's is a chance, this is what we intend to do going forward. The teeth are being forwarded to Florida where they will hopefully contribute to mapping the global genome of Bull Sharks and developing forensic tools for monitoring the Shark Fin trade and maybe even be used in toxicological studies.
On top of that, some Swiss scientists are currently analyzing a batch for trace amounts of chemicals revealing the exposure to fresh water. This is really cutting-edge stuff and if successful, this could shed further light on the Sharks' yearly migrations, even to the point of identifying individual rivers when matched against according water samples.
All very exciting stuff indeed!
Drop us a line: we're all for hosting self-motivated and intelligent people wanting to engage in Conservation-oriented science! Lemme however add a caveat before you start flooding us with requests: you will have to convince us that what you do will ultimately benefit the animals, you will have defer to Juerg's judgment and guidance, and you will have to secure your funding beforehand!
OK: ship 'em in!