In a video that is may be tough for some to watch, PhD candidate James Ducker posted a clip of a massive Greenland shark heart beating outside of the sharks body.
DISCLAIMER–not a cute #shark vid Greenland shark heart- they pump nearly a litre once every 10s, a key characteristic to their slow metabolism allowing them to live over 400 years! #shark #sharkscience #DiverseSharks #amazing #animals #adaptation #evolution #Arctic #science pic.twitter.com/bvgwiuOcn6
— James Ducker 🦈 (@elasmo_nerd) August 1, 2018
According to Decker, the still-pulsating heart was removed from the shark and kept beating using a system of pumps seen in the video. Decker mentioned that the Greenland shark pumps nearly a litre once every 10s, a key characteristic to their slow metabolism allowing them to live over 400 years old. To many, including us, the first question brought forth was the ethics behind the operation as the heart was removed from the shark while still beating. In other words, the shark was still alive. After the video was posted, many quickly questioned how the sharks heart was still beating outside of the body but the PhD candidate is quick to defend the action citing that the importance of the research outweighs the cost.
The research outcomes of such studies outweighs vastly the price payed- there is still so much to learn and these procedures offer invaluable knowledge no one has ever explored before – it is definitely NOT for being cool
— James Ducker 🦈 (@elasmo_nerd) August 3, 2018
It is important to note that Decker is not personally involved in the research but rather, it was performed by a previous supervisor and he notes that studies are scrutinized to use a minimum of test subjects. Decker also pointed out the video has been available for well over a year to the public.
Currently we know very little about the Greenland shark and Ducker stated that, “[researchers] found many new facts and processes that [weren’t] known previously as they tried to unlock how these sharks live longer than 400 years old,” said Ducker who also added in regards to the ethics, “If the issue is animal testing then the ethics goes far beyond the scope of research, this shark provided more information than we had ever seen before in countless ways from its cardiac system to general biology.”
Greenland sharks have only started to become studied in recent years due to the depth they live at and ability to avoid human contact. The remarkable animal lives at depths of up to 7,200 feet and researchers estimate the animal can live up to 400 years old. Whether or not the research of the shark is able to provide brand new research on the shark, it is sure a hot topic of conversation on the ethical practice of taking the heart out of a shark that was probably around 200 years old. Science has led us to learn things once believed impossible by studying animals but certain points, we need to take a step back and ask whether some research is worth it.