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Transfer DNA from shark bite impressions in surfboards used to identify species responsible

Principal Investigators: Derek Kraft, Carl Meyer

Identifying the species responsible in shark bite incidents is often challenging but modern DNA techniques provide a potential tool for definitive species identification provided sufficient DNA is transferred from the shark to the victim or victim’s articles (e.g. surfboard).  This project examines the potential for shark species identification using transfer DNA from surfboards by having tiger sharks bite surfboards under control settings. DNA is then swabbed off the boards and amplified for sequencing. Those sequences are then compared to online databases and matched to sequences from known species, therefore identifying which species the DNA represents. Preliminary results show this technique works however the method is still in its early stages. In preparation for real world applications, shark bite forensic kits have been prepared and distributed to life guard stations around Oahu and therefore these methods could be applied and identify the species responsible.

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