News - August 18, 2016

Student involved in hammerhead shark doc (video)

You may well see Wageningen Master’s student Guido Leurs swimming if you watch the National Geographic Channel next Sunday. That is when the documentary ‘Hunting the Hammerhead’ will be broadcast, which the biology student was involved in.

Guido Leurs with a Caribbean reef shark off Walker’s Cay (Bahamas) in 2012.
Photo: Amanda Nicholls

The documentary gives a picture of Craig O’Connell’s research into the mystery surrounding hammerhead sharks. Guido Leurs, who knows O’Connell well from previous research they did together, was a safety diver and assistant researcher for the study on the Bahamas, which is where the great hammerhead can be found. The Master’s student expects to see himself a few times in his diving suit, but he isn’t sure. ‘It’ll be the first time I see the final result too.’

Click here for the trailer of ‘Hunting the Hammerhead’.

The documentary sheds light on the life of the great hammerhead shark. It also presents a spectacular discovery. Leurs: ‘Over the years, there have been various theories about why the hammerhead shark has a hammer. The film will show new evidence for one of those theories. I’m not going to say more than that because you should definitely watch it to find out!’

The film will show new evidence for one of the theories about why a hammerhead shark has a hammer

Remote investigation
During filming, O’Connell and Leurs started using a new investigation method on the hammerhead sharks. ‘This technique lets us track the sharks’ growth without having to haul them out of the water,’ explains Leurs. ‘The dorsal fin is used to identify the shark as it has a
unique pattern, just like our fingerprints. Then the size of the shark is measured using lasers.’ This is a significant improvement as recent research has shown that hammerhead sharks experience a great deal of stress when they are removed from the seawater.

Guido Leurs among nurse sharks and hammerheads in Bimini (Bahamas) in 2015.
Photo: Craig O’Connell

Fascinated by sharks
Leurs’ fascination for shark goes back a long way. ‘As a kid I always loved animals, but when I watched a film with my father about the true nature of sharks, I was completely smitten.’ Leurs carried out his first shark study, on the great white shark in South Africa, for his degree at
a university of applied sciences. His current graduation project at Imares is about sharks around the island of Saba (the Dutch Antilles). After completing his Master's degree, Leurs hopes to do a PhD on sharks.

The documentary will be broadcast on the National Geographic
channel (the Netherlands and Belgium) on Sunday 21 August at 17:05, Monday 22
August at 00:05 and Saturday 27 August at 00:00.

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