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Commercial Shark Fishery Observer Program

Observer Training

Biological Sampling
The Florida Program for Shark Research is currently undertaking several shark life history and reproductive biology studies. We are examining the life history (age and growth) of three sharks: tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier); scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini); great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran). By analyzing the growth rings (patterns of calcium deposition) in shark vertebrae, we are able to determine the age of specimens caught. Ultimately this will allow us to develop a growth curve for the sharks in question. Accurate growth curves are essential for the proper management of shark populations. vertebrae removal
Vertebrae removal from a bonnethead shark (Sphyrna tiburo) © FLMNH


We are also studying the reproductive biology of five shark species: blacknose shark (Carcharhinus acronotus); sandbar shark (C. plumbeus); tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier); scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini); great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran).

Analyzing the reproductive condition and samples of the reproductive tract will allow researchers to determine the reproductive characteristics, such as the reproductive cycle, for these species.
dissection


One of the duties of the commercial shark fishery observer is to obtain biological samples for ongoing life history and reproductive biology projects. To this end, one day of the weeklong observer training is dedicated for instruction in biological sampling. The training begins with a lecture on basic life history (age and growth) and elasmobranch reproduction; covering basic reproduction, reproductive anatomy, and an overview of the ongoing projects. The next step in the training process is to learn to identify the requested reproductive tissue and how to dissect the sharks. Observers are trained to identify and remove portions of the reproductive tract: in male sharks, testes, epididymides, and seminal vesicles; in female sharks, ovaries, nidamental glands (shell glands), and uteri. An emphasis on the proper techniques of dissection, as well as, the proper protocol for fixing the tissue in formalin, is stressed. dissection




To view larger images, click your mouse on each photo:

male shark dissection
Portions of the reproductive tract from male specimens. A. testes, B. seminal vesicles © FLMNH
female shark dissection
Portions of the reproductive tract from female specimens. A. nidamental glands, B. uteri © FLMNH


male shark organs
Male reproductive organs of a shark:
A. testes, B. epididymides, C. seminal vesicles © FLMNH
female shark organs
Female reproductive organs of a shark
A. ovary, B. nidamental gland, C. uterus © FLMNH