Welcome to Dear Shark Man, an advice column inspired by a ridiculous e-mail I received. You can send your questions to me via twitter (@WhySharksMatter) or e-mail (WhySharksMatter at gmail).
Dear Shark Man,
Do sharks fart?
Restless in Raleigh
This is a great question! I did not know the answer, so I asked an expert for you. Daniella Rabaiotti works at the Institute of Zoology at the Zoological Society of London, and she is a coauthor of the upcoming book “Does it Fart? The Definitive Guide to Animal Flatulence” This book will be available in the US in April. Here’s what Dani had to say:
Sand Tiger sharks gulp air from the surface of the water and store it, which prevents them from sinking when they stop swimming. We’ve all seen tiger sharks in aquariums just hanging there, unlike most sharks which would sink, well this is their secret! They let air out in the form of a fart when they want to lose buoyancy.
As for other shark species, well we really just don’t know! As generally sharks use their oily liver for buoyancy, and trapped wind would probably mess that up, I would speculate that maybe this is a trait unique to tiger sharks, but clearly more research is needed.
I tried to find a picture or video of this for you, dear readers, but Google incorrectly assumed that I was searching for “shark facts.” I suppose this is better than looking for shark facts and finding farts instead.
Though the Smithsonian Animal Answer Guide confirms that captive sand tiger sharks have been known to expel gas bubbles out their cloaca, there really isn’t much else out there about this. I agree with Dani that more research is needed to study this important issue. If anyone applies for a grant to study whether sharks fart, please, please, please send me a copy of this grant.