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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Sept. 18, 1975)
Prof beats Jawsmania'
thursday, September 18, 1975
Before the so-called "J awsmania" shark
terror swallowed the interest of the coun
try, UNL Zoology Professor Thomas Thor
son was studying the finned throwback to
No, Thorson has yet to discover any 25
foot Great White Sharks. Nor does he har
bor any secret desire to end up as shark
"If you handle a shark right, they're no
big problem," Thorson said. "Just don't go
into the water where they're at home. Stay
on the . land where you're - at home."
Thorson has been studying the habits
and movements of the Bull Shark in and
around South America's Lake Nicaragua.
"We've been studying the biology,
movements and physiology of the fresh
water sharks and their relatives, like the
sawfish and the stingrays," Thorson said.
"We're trying to determine how th& Bull
Sharks are able td live both in the fresh
water of Lake Nicaragua and the sea."
He said a tagging program he established
when Jie first began his studies nearly 15
years ago has proved that the shark and
some of his relatives travel between the sea
and the lake.
He said this was the first proof of the
shark's capability to change from a fresh
water to salt water environment, as the
better-known salmon and eel do.
But Thorson said he has yet to pinpoint
a reason for the shark's movement between
environments beyond a search for food.
"Apparently it's not a requirement of
its life history or a requirement for repro
duction," unlike the salmon and the eel,
according to Thorson.
In February, he will begin a new round
of research with a grant from the Central
Bank of Nicaragua, which will examine
year-long habits of the sharks. He said he
will visit Nicaragua in October to set up the
research and return in February to initiate
it, but otherwise will not be on location for
' A former American Peace Corps volun
teer who remained in South America will
direct the operations of local fishermen in
catching and tagging the sharks, Thorson
said. In past studies he has used students
and graduates as assistants.
Thorson said that while he has been
doing research in South America there have
been no shark-related accidents.
"I suppose if you were studying sharks
in the ocean, you might go intQ the water
to stiidy them in their habitat," Thorson
said. f'But the water is so murky down
there we couldn't see anything anyway, so
we don't go into the water and don't have
He said the only problem he's faced is
the slashing movements of the shark's head
and tail when they are brought to the
beach for tagging and then quickly released.
"But their middle stays still while
they're slashing, so we straddle them to tag
them," he said. .
The largest shark Thorson has seen was
a female Bull Shark "a little" over eight
feet long, although he said he has seen
larger ones in photographs. '
And then there's the 25-foot monster
from "Jaws". . :
"As entertainment, it was probably a
pretty good picture," Thorson admitted.
"But from the- standpoint of science, it
He said that although a shark's mind is
not completely understood, he believed the
movie was a bit overdrawn. .
"I don't believe any shark has the type
of mind to pursue a boat," Thorson said,
"And once he catches it, I don't think he'd
go up the deck to get the captain."
Thorson said he finally saw the movie
after many people questioned him about it.
"It strains my credulity, but I suppose
it's good entertainment for laymen," he
, Some of the facts in the movie are
accurate, though, according to Thorson.
"Sharks will eat practically anything,
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Tagging sharks in Nicaragua. Insert:
although they don't generally . take the
unusual things like license plates and cans,"
- "It's also true that they are attracted by
unusual, irregular vibrations in the water
like those caused by swimming," he added.
If a person should get caught in the
water with a shark interested in attacking,
Thorson recommended swimming as steadi
ly as possible to the nearest short or boat,
"although the chances aren't very great
that a shark would attack."
He said the last confirmed death by
shark in the Lake Nicaragua area occurred
in the late 1950s. .
He also said that past shark repellents
were ineffective. '
"The "Shark Chaser repellent used by
Photo courtesy of Thomas T hereon
UNL Zoology Professor Thomas
the Navy for years may have provided a
tremendous psychological feeling for
downed airplane fliers, but tests have
proved that it wasn't very effective;" Thor
son said. -
Thorson did say that a University of
Maryland researcher has discovered that
secretions from a Red Sea fish effectively
"In tests, the fish, tied to a line or some
thing, Has been left in a shark infested area
and has consistently discouraged and
driven off sharks," Thorson said.
He added that the researchers should be
close to being able to produce enough
proper synthetic substitute to make the
repellent teasiDie ior aisinouuon.
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1 MAJORS f
There is one ASUN senate position open for a
representative from the College of Home Economics.
There are also openings on :
Housing Policy Committee Grading
Intercollegiate Athbtics Human Rights
Parking Appeals - Committee on Equality
ROTC Advisory Board Libraries (grad.)
Campus Security Advisory Board
. Student Suspension & Dismissal,.,'.,;,
Teaching Council (grcd.).
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If interested come to or call the ASUN office,
334 Neb. Unbn,
. : 472-2581 "' i
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