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New forensic technique gives clues about sharks from bite damage
Date:12/1/2009

istance 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. Un
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Contact: George Burgess
gburgess@flmnh.ufl.edu
352-392-2360
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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