Unlocking mysteries of the deep A team of researchers, led by Haley Dolton, PhD candidate in Trinity’s School of Natural Sciences, have unravelled the captivating mystery of basking sharks, revealing their hidden warmth, and reshaping marine biology understanding In the mesmerising world beneath the waves, nature often conceals its most astonishing secrets. Amidst the azure expanse, some aquatic inhabitants possess extraordinary traits that challenge our understanding of marine life. This narrative unfolds with a spotlight on an elusive denizen of the deep – the basking shark. A recent revelation, spearheaded by a team of researchers from Trinity and a consortium of peer institutions, including Queen’s University Belfast, Zoological Society of London, and University of Southampton, has illuminated a hidden facet of these gentle giants that promises to reshape our perception of marine biology. The basking shark, a majestic filter-feeder known for its languid movements, has traditionally been regarded as a creature of cold-blooded nature. However, the research spearheaded by Trinity’s Haley Dolton, supported by the Irish Research Council and the Fisheries Society of the British Isles, has unveiled an astonishing twist in this tale. Along the remote and rugged coasts of Ireland and the UK, where these enigmatic creatures occasionally wash ashore, the researchers embarked on a groundbreaking mission. They dissected stranded basking sharks, to further a better understanding of their nature and physiognomy. Their quest centred on a tantalising possibility: could the basking shark, despite its apparent lethargy, hold within it the secrets of being warm-blooded? The initial findings were nothing short of astonishing. Anatomical traits associated with the realm of warm-blooded creatures were discovered within these seemingly placid filter-feeders. The distribution of central red muscle and the density of compact tissue within the heart bore the hallmarks of a high-energy lifestyle, a stark contrast to the sluggish stereotype attributed to these gentle giants.
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