I must admit, I’m pretty passionate about what I’m sharing with you today. It’s one of my favorite things to share with my Marine Biology students, and I get warm fuzzies just seeing their astonished faces!
Here’s what I ask them to get them thinking: “Why do you think barnacles don’t grow on sharks, even slow moving ones?” (Barnacles certainly don’t mind weighing whales and sea turtles down!)
After they ponder this a bit, I add a follow-up question: “How could knowing this be applied to help humans?”
So, without keeping you in suspense any longer, here it is: sharks save human lives from bacterial diseases! But how??
Well, it all has to do with their skin and the fact that barnacles and other critters like algae can’t attach to it. Sharks’ remarkable skin is covered in tiny tooth-like scales. The scales form a ridged pattern that makes it difficult for critters like barnacles to grip onto the shark.
So where’s the connection to us? Well, scientists who were studying this made the ultimate connection. They made a textured plastic sheet that replicated the microscopic ridged pattern of the shark scales. With this replica, they tested to see how well bacteria grew on it. They discovered that the growth of bacteria was hugely reduced on the plastic modeled after the shark skin! (For more about their research, visit http://www.sharklet.com.)
This means that surfaces in hospitals and germy public places that are covered with the plastic shark skin pattern (called Sharklet) will help prevent deadly bacteria from spreading, saving human lives. What’s especially great is that there are no toxic chemicals or antibiotics used for bacteria to develop a resistance to and become rampant.
The use of Sharklet means healthier people, thanks to the shark and the scientists who realized this discovery! Of course, we were sure to feature a shark in our ocean adventure children’s book, Zale’s Tales, as one of the sea creatures that Zale changed into.
Who would have thought that sharks would help us combat our tiniest foes and save lives? Pretty amazing in my opinion!
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