Mote Marine Laboratory scientists help with history-making great white shark study

6:01 PM, Mar 12, 2013   |    comments
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Sarasota, Florida - The video is spectacular and historic. It shows a giant shark on a ship's deck, surrounded by researchers. 

It is the first great white captured, tagged, and released off the east coast of Florida. And scientists from Mote Marine Laboratory were right by its side.

"It was awesome to be on board that ship," exclaims Mote Staff Scientist Nick Whitney.

The 2,000-pound shark named Lydia was caught March 3rd off the coast of Jacksonville. A unique research vessel operated by the group OCEARCH made it all possible. The ship has a special platform that can raise the huge sharks out of the water, so that scientists can do their thing.

"We simply have not been able to do this before in the history of marine biology," says Mote's Shark Research Director Robert Hueter.

Water pumped through the shark's gills keeps it alive, but time is short. Teams of scientists jump into action. They attach tags and take blood and tissue samples.

"It was like a MASH unit trying to get all this work done, so she could swim off in 15 minutes," says Hueter.

One of the tags will ping Lydia's location for five years and another one, which pops off, has already been analyzed for shark motion.

"With this device we can literally detect every single tail beat the animal makes, every change in body pitch and posture," describes Whitney, moving his hand back and forth like a shark's tail.

Great whites are so famous, yet surprisingly little is known about the ocean's top predator and research missions like this one are groundbreaking.

Whitney says, "We're trying to solve these mysteries one piece at a time, so each new shark we get tagged is a huge step forward."

Follow 10 News Reporter KathrynBursch on twitter @Kathryn Bursch

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