Shark Microbiome

Whale shark sampling – Cancun, Mexico

During July 2017 the Dinsdale lab traveled down to Cancun, Mexico to take microbial skin samples from whale sharks. This whale shark aggregation can be found a couple miles off the coast of Cancun and is the largest whale shark aggregation in the world. Whale sharks travel here to feed on millions of tuna eggs and swim slow enough, while they eat, that we are able to take microbial skin samples. We take these samples using a dual chambered syringe called the SuperSucker (featured in the video). To use the Supersucker, first sterile seawater is loaded into the SuperSucker, and then the SuperSucker is pressed against the side of the whale shark, which creates a seal separating the skin sample area from the surrounding water. Finally, the sterile seawater washes the microbes off the shark’s skin and back into the chamber. On the boat we ran the water samples the SuperSucker collected through filters that stored the microbial DNA until it could be processed. Special thanks to Rafael de la Parra and Deni Ramirez for their help and wisdom!


SEM image of the skin surface of a Leopard shark (Triakis semifasciata). The individual scale like structures are called dermal denticles, which are a teeth like structure covering the skin of the shark.
Whale shark swimming in La Paz Bay in Baja Sul, Mexico
Mike sampling the skin microbiome of the Whale shark
Michael Doane (left) and Dovi Kacev (right) aboard the Outerbanks participating in the annual common thresher shark survey of the California Bight that NOAA Southwest Fisheries Division supp    orts.