New 3D images of shark intestines show they function like Tesla valves – .

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New 3D images of shark intestines show they function like Tesla valves – .


TORONTO – Although sharks are frequently touted as the “scary creature with big teeth” in our collective imaginations, not much is known about what sharks actually eat and how they can spend so long between meals.

But the new 3D imagery may have unraveled some of those digestive mysteries by creating a better picture of what a shark’s intestines look like.

According to a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers have taken images using CT scans that allow a closer look at the animal’s spiral intestines, which may allow it to slowly digest food.

“It is high time that modern technology was used to examine these truly incredible spiral sharks intestines,” Samantha Leigh, assistant professor at California State University and lead author of the study, said in a press release. “We have developed a new method to digitally scan these tissues and can now examine soft tissues in so much detail without having to cut them out. “

Researchers performed CT scans of about three dozen species of sharks from specimens held at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles. This process involved taking a series of x-rays from different angles and then combining these flat images to produce a 3D image.

This meant the researchers didn’t have to dissect a shark and disrupt the organs involved.

“The intestines are so complex, with so many overlapping layers, that the dissection destroys the context and connectivity of the tissue,” co-author Adam Summers, UW-based Friday Harbor Labs professor, explained in the release.

“It would be like trying to figure out what was reported in a newspaper by taking scissors out of a rolled up copy. The story just doesn’t hold up. “

By examining these 3D images, the researchers were able to theorize that the spiral shape of sharks’ intestines actually helped them conserve food for longer. The spiral shape of the intestine slows the progress of food through the shark, moving according to gravity and the contraction of the intestines.

The statement explained that shark intestines function similarly to a one-way valve designed by Nikola Tesla over 100 years ago, in that it allows fluid to move in one direction without backflow or external help. other moving parts.

Unlike how often Jaws’ shark has been seen eating, sharks often spend days or even weeks between meals, so these spiraling intestines can help them lengthen a large meal, researchers say. .

The next step for the researchers is to create these structures themselves using a 3D printer and see what happens as matter passes through them in real time. The statement also mentioned that these structures could serve as inspiration for technology and things such as treating wastewater or filtering microplastics from water.

Since sharks eat a wide variety of things in the ocean and are often top predators, better understanding how they digest could help us better understand the ocean ecosystem in general.

“The vast majority of shark species, and the majority of their physiology, are completely unknown,” Summers said, adding that new things are discovered every time they look closely.

“We need to take a closer look at sharks and, in particular, we need to take a closer look at parts other than the jaws and species that don’t interact with humans. ”

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