Rare opportunity to learn about sharks

Great white shark ready for inspection

Students, scientists and Ngāti Kuri gathered for the rare opportunity to see the necropsy of a great white shark at Massey University’s campus in Auckland last week.

The necropsy (the equivalent of a human autopsy) was undertaken at the University’s Coastal-Marine Pathology Unit by Department of Conservation marine scientist Clinton Duffy, Auckland Museum head of natural sciences Dr Tom Trnski and Massey Marine Technician Emma Betty.

At just 1.85 metres and 59.2 kilograms, the shark is estimated to be around one year old.

It was discovered by 2014 New Zealander of the Year, Dr Lance O'Sullivan, who found it washed up at Great Exhibition Bay, Northland. He hoped that the specimen may be a useful learning opportunity for students. With the permission of Ngāti Kuri, the necropsy was able to take place at Massey and was well-attended by students from primary school age to PhD level.

Massey scientist Dr Adam Smith, who was at the necropsy, says this is a rare opportunity to learn more about sharks. 

“It’s not often we get the opportunity to dissect a great white shark, especially one so young. It’s been really great to bring together all sorts of people who are interested in the marine environment and protecting our marine species.

“We have good facilities for dissecting and doing necropsies of marine animals of all sorts. We necropsy dolphins, small whales, turtles and sharks. After the initial measurements, they cut the shark open, weighed the liver, looked at the shark’s stomach contents, taking samples for DNA analysis for heavy metal analysis. There’s a lot of information packed in that one animal.”

Māori Television were on site filming, following students from the Northland region interested in the shark. The female specimen will now be taken back to Northland by Ngāti Kuri 

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