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Posted by Lauren Smith on

Egg(case) Hunting this Easter

Egg(case) Hunting this Easter

Are you heading to the beach this Easter? If so forget the chocolate eggs – shark & skate eggcases are where its at!

A small spotted catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula), on Rattray Head beach, Peterhead, UK.

Some species of sharks and skates found around the UK coastline lay eggcases, this is a method of reproduction known as ‘oviparity’. Skates will lay their eggs on the seabed, with sharks usually attaching their eggs to nearby seaweed and kelp. Once the skate or shark pup has hatched, the eggcases often wash-up on the shoreline due to rough seas, or simply as a result of tidal currents and prevailing wind directions.

Some of the eggcases we have found around the Scottish coastline, Top L-R: Flapper, Blonde, Spotted, Thornback, Cuckoo and Starry Skate. Bottom L-R: Bull Huss and Small Spotted Catshark.

The Shark Trust has a number of useful guides online for identifying and recording your eggcase finds, so check out their website for more information. And don’t forget to report your finds to them (they have an app available for this too) – adding important data to their ‘great eggcase hunt’ which is a good indicator of species and populations of skates and sharks in nearby waters. Of course we would also love to see your finds, so tag us in your finds @saltwaterlifeuk on Insta and Twitter and @sharkiologist for our Facebook Page.

Resources provided online by The Shark Trust, check out what they have by going to www.sharktrust.org

Remember to check that your eggcase is empty, if in any doubt return it to the water!

Happy Eggcase Hunting!

Posted by Lauren Smith on

Call of the Blue

Call of the Blue

On the 19th of November i headed down to the Natural History Museum in London, i was attending a book launch party and would be doing a Q&A session on sharks whilst there. The book by Philip Hamilton is entitled “Call of the Blue” and tells the story of positive, focused people who are working to save our oceans. Featuring incredible images captured by Philip over a 5 year period, with chapters outlining the efforts by individuals and communities to inspire and drive change.

I was absolutely honoured to be a part of this, having been contacted around 18 months ago by Tom Hooper to give an interview about my work with sharks, excerpts of which were to be featured in the book. The launch was fantastic, representatives from all sectors were present, including CEO’s from huge companies, marine charities, activists and researchers like myself. All were there to understand more about our marine environment and the threats it currently faces.

In the afternoon prior to the launch party, the head curator of the fisheries department James Maclaine, was kind enough to indulge my curiosity and gave me a behind the scenes tour of the preserved elasmobranch specimens that were kept in the archives. This was absolutely fascinating and a real treat to see the scale of the collections they had, highlights included a Greenland Shark (Somniosus microcephalis), that had washed up on the UK coastline. This species is in my opinion one of the most extraordinary sharks out there, recent research using radio carbon dating techniques have been used on the eye tissue of these sharks. Results revealed that of the sharks sampled, age ranges varied with the minimum age being AT LEAST 272 YEARS OLD! The 2 largest sharks in the study were estimated to be between 335-392 years old! 

Having recently collected a number of eggcases around the Scottish coastline, i was particularly looking forward to seeing what species of eggcases were in the NHM collection. I was not disappointed! I was delighted (and a little concerned that i would drop it) when James handed me a Chimaera eggcase collected in 1904.

Equally fascinating was the enormous Great White Shark jaw, it was donated in the 1800’s to the museum and since then there has been an enormous amount of speculation as to the size of the shark that this jaw belonged to. Some scientists believe that the shark would have been around 8m!!! The stuff dreams are made of – well my dreams at any rate!

 

Posted by Lauren Smith on

Manta Rays and Mirrors…

Manta Rays and Mirrors…

Here I discuss research conducted by Dr Csilla Ari and Dr Dominic D’Agostino on the Giant Manta Ray. Their study provides evidence for behavioural responses in Manta’s that are known to be prerequisites for self awareness in other species. Given that Manta Ray fisheries exist globally, where does that leave us ethically?

https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2018/feb/27/mirrors-have-revealed-something-new-about-manta-rays-and-it-reflects-badly-on-us

 

Posted by Lauren Smith on

Octopus release goes swimmingly!

Octopus release goes swimmingly!

octopus release

After a temporary stay at Macduff Marine Aquarium, this octopus was carefully transported back to the sea so that she would have time to find a mate and complete her lifecycle.

In the video below you can find out how we came to have this fascinating animal at the aquarium. Watch her glide gently out of her high tech tupperware transport, before jetting off and immediately adapting to her natural habitat, going straight into camouflage mode amongst the kelp.

 

 

Octopus Release from bernard martin on Vimeo.