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Research: Baby Sharks Grow Slowly, Open Eyes and Change Fins Early

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QUEENSLAND, Australia -- Baby sharks grow slowly, changing their fins as they grow and can see a month before they leave their eggs, according UQ research.

UQ Marine Science PhD student Blake Harahush, of the School of Biomedical Sciences, has been studying the growth and visual development of brown banded bamboo sharks from embryo to adult for the last three years.

After observing the growth of more than 13 pups, Ms Harahush found that sharks showed signs of fins at about 53 days into an average hatching period of 153 days, which varied depending on incubation temperature.

Warmer temperatures sped up growth with one bamboo shark hatched at 101 days.

Most other sharks take between a few months and two years to develop before birth.

She said they initially grew two long fins that she believed circulated fresh water and fresh oxygen and cleared any waste from the egg case.

These fins then morphed into the normal dorsal, pelvic, pectoral and caudal fins.

She also found that sharks eyes' developed fully within their dark egg cases a month before hatching.

"It's still a mystery why they develop their eyes so early before they hatch," Miss Harahush said.

"I can't say all their internal organs are mature, but externally, the developing sharks appear just like hatchlings at about 115 days.

"Sharks are not out to hunt humans. Bamboo sharks might suck on your toe but only if you put it in their mouth."

Her study of sharks, from Underwater World at Mooloolaba, is believed to be the second comprehensive scientific study of sharks from embryo to adult.

The 24-year-old American student from Maryland finished her UQ Honours degree in 2004 and is now in the third year of her PhD.

Her research will appear in the Journal of Fish Biology in coming months.

Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of, its staff or its advertisers.

Reader Comments

6 people have commented so far. cloud add your comment

I was wondering how do i know if its a male or a female shark?
   comment# 1   - Tiffany · Kissimmee, US · Jun 13, 2007 @ 3:16pm

WOW! I think that is amazing i was just reserching on the internet for my brothers project and i think that is absoultley amazing how its eyes open in their egg before they hatch and I aboultly love the way the bamboo shark is covered in stripes. And i have a question do bamboo sharks really suck on your toes and dose it hurt your toe? well thanks. Thisa from Airazona, Phonix
   comment# 2   - Thisa king · Phonix · Feb 21, 2008 @ 3:09pm

   comment# 3   - sharyce · winniepeg mb · Feb 28, 2011 @ 8:07am

Have been watching Documentaries on how Millions are being spent on tagging and figuring out where certain shark baby species spend their juvenile years. Can someone get the word out that in Malaysia markets, much to my disgust, I have seen baby hammerheads and thresher sharks. So they must surely be in Malaysian swamps. Am sure this information would prove useful to someone. Think the best way to research where is to go to local markets in different regions rather than tagging and tracking.
   comment# 4   - Chow Chun Son · Malaysia · Feb 1, 2012 @ 6:46pm

do they breath out of water cause I saw it in a movie
   comment# 5   - Stephanie · Trinidad&Tobago · May 25, 2012 @ 5:34pm

Sharks are fish, so no- they don't breathe out of water. So just curious as to why that girl is holding a pup out of the water in that picture. If it didn't make it- I can understand but, if it's alive...
   comment# 6   - TY · USA · Dec 5, 2012 @ 5:06pm
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