20 October 2005

USA: Scientists to study bull sharks attraction to Mississippi

Scientists have tagged four young bull sharks to monitor their travel and try to determine how the sharks decide where to live.

Eric Hoffmayer, a scientist with the University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, said the sharks were about 2 1/2 feet long and can grow to about 9 feet.

"Adult bull sharks have been known to interact with humans, but they are rarely seen in Mississippi waters. We are just a nursery where the little guys hang out," Hoffmayer said Monday.

The sharks were caught in the Davis Bayou and acoustic tags were attached outside their dorsal fins. The sharks were released unharmed and scientists used receivers and head phones to track them.

"One went into a nearby small bayou and another to Deer Island, but they usually go further out," Hoffmayer said.

The researchers are not sure if Hurricane Katrina caused the concentration of the young sharks. A high salinity, resulting from a near drought since the Aug. 29 storm, might be a factor.

After Hurricane Ivan, there were reports of an increase in sharks in Alabama waters. He said young sharks are usually in the coastal rivers, but there has been a problem of dissolved oxygen upriver, plus sewage in Louisiana waters.

"Shark and other animals typically handled storms well, much better than we do," Hoffmayer said. "They have natural instincts to do whatever they need to do."

Source: www.ledger-enquirer.com


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