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,
What are your thoughts on elasmobranchs in the pet and aquarium trade? Is this a serious conservation issue?
Nonchalant in New Zealand
Other than a certain week in August whose name we shall not speak here, 2013 was a great year for both shark science and the communication of that shark science. There were many important and fascinating discoveries, and many of the world’s top media outlets covered them. Presented here is a list of 13 amazing scientific discoveries made in 2013, in no particular ranking order. To make the list, research must have been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal in 2013, and someone else other than me must have also thought it was awesome (i.e. it received mainstream media or blog coverage). In the interest of objectivity, I did not include any papers that I or my lab were directly involved with. Whenever possible, I’ve linked to an accessible version of the paper.
1) A two-headed bull shark!
From Wagner et al. 2013
Citation: Wagner, CM, Rice, PH, and Pease, AP 2013. First record of dicephalia in a bull shark Carcharhinus leucas foetus from the Gulf of Mexico. Journal of Fish Biology 82: 1419-1422.
Brief description: Researchers presented the first case of a bull shark embryo with 2 heads (the mother was caught by a Florida fishermen). In response to the most common question I received about this study, no, this animal would not have survived to adulthood. While this is a cool discovery, the broader significance is somewhat minimal. As I told science writer Douglas Main in an interview about a similar study, “There have been a number of reports of deformed shark and ray embryos in recent years— two heads, one eye, etc. There’s no evidence to suggest these defects represent a new phenomenon or that they are harmful to shark populations as a whole.”
Media coverage highlights: A figure from this study was named one of the coolest science photos of the year by the International Science Times. It was also covered by National Geographic, the Guardian, and TIME magazine. Read More
We’re happy to announce a new experiment in our ongoing effort with casual video adventures. We take short videos from one of our SCUBA diving adventures, watch them together, and do a running commentary about whatever issues, topics, and stories emerge during the video. There’s just two rules – neither of us can have watched the entire video more than once and the discussion must be completely unscripted. DiveTracks, because we can’t talk underwater.
Watch our very first episode, here:
But we don’t want this to be the David and Andrew show. No, no, no. We want you, our loyal readers, to submit your own underwater videos for us to discuss. Feel free to e-mail me or David if you would like to contribute to DiveTracks.