Lloyd Center students cap off summer by dissecting sharks

Shark Dissection at Lloyd Center

Dissection of dogfish shark.
Photo by John Sladewski/The Standard-Times

DARTMOUTH — Surrounded by her Lloyd Center for the Environment marine biology class, instructor Jill Traban cut open the orange trash bag and dumped out two bloody dogfish shark bodies on the patio near her dissection tools.

As shark programs dominate the Discovery Channel’s prime-time lineup for “Shark Week” this week, the center’s students were experiencing their own shark mania Tuesday by watching their teachers dissect the 2-foot-long sharks.

The summer marine biology class brings middle school-aged kids to the center’s Dartmouth campus on Potomska Road for a week of coastal explorations around SouthCoast, including a dissection. The center holds six of the week-long classes each summer. The classes cost $300 for Lloyd Center members and $350 for non-members.

“We took (the sharks) out of the freezer last night, they’re still a little frozen,” Traban said, gesturing to the shark corpses, which were not preserved in any way, on the patio. “One of the interns here has some connection to a local fisherman and gets them donated when he accidently catches them.”

Spiny dogfish sharks like the ones dissected Tuesday are a common species of shark that can grow to 2 or 3 feet for females and 3-5 feet for males. The sharks eat small marine animals such as crabs.

None of the kids so much as squirmed when they saw the sharks or when Lloyd Center intern Jill Corcoran took a pair of scissors and opened one of the shark’s stomachs, finding that it was pregnant.

“I thought it was neat. I thought the babies were cute,” Alexis Rose, 12, of Dartmouth, said as she held a semi-formed fetal shark.

The class aims to interest kids in science and involves field trips to estuaries, the Woods Hole Science Aquarium and a number of local beaches where they collect specimens for their own observation tanks at the center. Corcoran and Traban said they hope the class will instill students with a long-term respect for wildlife and that a number of the students already have a realistic understanding of sharks — as opposed to thinking their mindless, fearsome predators as in “Jaws” — and how they live.

“A lot of them, surprisingly, have a lot more knowledge than you’d think. None of them is really scared of sharks,” Traban said. “One of them told me he doesn’t watch “Shark Week” because it makes them look like monsters.”

New Bedford Standard Times

This article by appeared in the New Bedford Standard Times on August 16th, 2012. The original article can be seen here: