Environmental Impacts

Turbine/Animal Strike Impact Study

Led by Marianne Porter, Ph.D.
Affiliated Home Campus: Boca Raton
Affiliated Department: Biological Sciences
REU Scholar: Doug Werry
REU Scholar Home Institution: Wheaton College


In addition to developing novel tools for observing animal behavior near ocean current turbines, it will be important to predict what will happen if a turbine does strike a marine animal. Off Florida, there are several prevalent species of sharks and therefore this study will focus on the direct impact that a turbine will have on sharks if an animal strike does occur. Shark skin has been proposed to function as an external tendon allowing animals to conserve energy as they move and protecting them from harm. Despite this well know hypothesis, little is know about the actual mechanical properties of shark skin. Here we explore how the number of mineralized dermal denticles impact the mechanical properties of the skin along the longitudinal and circumferential axes of the body. Students will dissect sharks to obtain skin samples. Skin will be photographed under magnification to determine the denticle density. Next, skin samples will be tested in tension on a mechanical testing system. These results will provide data that will either support or refute the hypothesis that skin is behaving as a protective exotendon. It will also provide information about how the density of hard mineralized inclusion in a soft biological tissues can impact the overall mechanics. Data on shark skin mechanical properties found here will be made available for future finite element based studies to help determine the consequences associated with an ocean current turbine directly striking a shark. Ideally, students will submit an abstract and present a poster at the annual meeting of the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology, (January, 2018).

Click here to watch the student presentation.

HBOI ocean fish