Fear them or love them, there’s no doubt that sharks are impressive hunters and predators. Yet the truth remains that humans are more of a threat to these magnificent creatures than they are to us.  The worldwide demand for shark fin soup, shark teeth and a fear of not being safe on beaches, has resulted in millions of sharks being killed each year. Sharks play an essential role in keeping the underwater ecosystem alive and well. Shark week celebrates these wonderful creatures and appreciates their uniqueness.

I want to look at how Sharks are having an influence on science and technology.  

First of all, let’s take a look at Shark skin, as this is something which has been studied for a while, and is coming on leaps and bounds.

Shark skin is unique. Engineers have been mimicking the roughness of shark skin when designing swimsuits and even racing cars for a while now. Up close, a shark’s skin is surprisingly rough, and looks very similar to tiny teeth. These tiny teeth or ‘denticles’, aid movement which help the sharks to cruise efficiently.  Scientists have used 3D printing to replicate the skin and are now able to print the pattern for use. Even though the artificial denticles are about 10 times larger than the real thing, a team of researchers stuck the artificial skin onto a small paddle and studied it in a water tank. The artificial skin boosted swim speed by 6.6% and used 5.9% less energy, which is huge when you consider sharks are constantly swimming. Researchers are particularly happy with 3D printed models because they move and bend just like sharks. Transferring this design to textiles could take decades but it would have a dramatic effect on swimming performance.

There are so many ways that Sharks are helping science and technology to move forward and improve. Here are just 5 of the ways that we can learn from Sharks.

-       Designers are hoping to build ships with Shark scale qualities as their skin prevents algae and other things sticking to them, a trait, which would be highly beneficial for ships.

-       Sharks continue to swim whilst sleeping and researchers are hoping to treat human sleep disorders by studying their brains.

-       Sharks have amazing electrical sensitivity and research on sharks’ electroreceptor organs may lead to better navigation in human transport methods.

-       Shark blood contains anticlotting compounds, which scientists hope may one day be used for human application in curing heart disease.

-       Sharks have highly developed immune systems and it is hoped that through study and research we might be able to develop preventative treatments for humanities deadliest diseases.

Enjoy Shark week! Whether you watch some shows, or read up on some Shark facts, let’s appreciate this incredible species, not just this week, but every week!

 

Written by

Katherine Thomson