Dissection of shark draws inquisitive onlookers

Nikolai Tchesnokov (5) of Dunedin, gets up close and personal with a blue shark at the Otago...
Nikolai Tchesnokov (5) of Dunedin, gets up close and personal with a blue shark at the Otago Museum Reserve yesterday. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
A monster of the deep shared its secrets with a large crowd at the Otago Museum Reserve yesterday. About 150 people attended the dissection of the 1.8m blue shark.

The demonstration captured the imaginations of young and old, with as many adults as children present.

The shark had died of natural causes and been washed up on a Dunedin beach, New Zealand Marine Studies Centre senior aquarist Matthew Crane said.

"The continental shelf is only 10km off Dunedin, so we get a lot more sharks close to shore," he said.

While the sharks posed little threat to humans, they had been known to attack motor boats, he said.

The fish had such a strong sense of smell they could detect a drop of blood in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

Shark skin was once commonly used for leather and was still providing inspiration for new technology swimming suits, he said.

The dissection was organised by masters student Nicole Schafer, of the science communication centre at Otago University, to mark Earth Day.

"We're really delighted with the turnout," Ms Schafer said. "We got the shark from Warrington".

Ms Schafer is producing a film on the Dunedin shark nets, which have killed more than 700 sharks in the past 30 years.

Dunedin is the only New Zealand city and one of few in the world which persists with shark nets, despite marine scientists saying they are ineffective and anti-conservation. Tangled Waters will premiere in Dunedin in November.

nigel.benson@odt.co.nz

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