UH, DLNR work to identify species of sharks

  • Contributed

    Bite marks from a shark are seen on a Lahaina, Maui man’s surfboard.

HONOLULU — Using new DNA barcoding technology, a pair of shark researchers at the University of Hawai‘i‘s Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology have determined a tiger shark caused fatal injuries to a 56-year-old Lahaina, Maui man who was bitten at Maui’s Honolua Bay on Dec. 8.

Separately, by measuring the bite mark on the surfer’s board, they have determined the shark was approximately 14.3 feet long.

Lead researcher Dr. Carl Meyer, a renowned shark expert, said, “Prior to the development of these new techniques, uncertainly over the size and species of sharks responsible for bites to people was common. We are absolutely certain that it was a large tiger shark that bit this man.”

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources collaborated with HIMB to definitively identify the species and calculate shark size from bite impressions.

Using a “swab kit” developed by the HIMB researchers, Adam Wong, a Maui-based DAR education specialist, gathered trace samples of DNA from the bite impression left on the victim’s board.

Dr. Derek Kraft, a University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant Fellow working at HIMB said, “Once we received the sample from Maui, we used these new techniques to determine the species and size of the shark involved in the recent Honolua incident. These new techniques can be applied in future incidents to help us gain a clearer understanding of these events…which fortunately are quite rare.”

The researchers are confident their method can recover shark DNA from anything that comes in direct contact with a shark, such as a surfboard or stand-up paddleboard.

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