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And because this advances our understanding of how bamboo corals grow, it helps us measure how quickly deep sea coral habitats might recover from damage.” La Vigne said Frenkel and Miller impressed her collaborators on this project with the quality of their work at NOSAMS through to the writing of the paper. Meg and Hannah also earned the top student poster award when they presented this project to an international audience at the 2016 International Sclerochronology Conference last summer.” Frenkel said the paper evolved a lot over time, from some initial results she presented as part of her honors project.“When Meg presented her thesis at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union during her senior year, several of my colleagues in the field assumed that she was presenting her Ph. “It feels great to have a final product come out of these two years of work.This first successful radiocarbon age-validation study analyzed vertebrae from four male and four female white sharks ( caught between 19 in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean."Ageing sharks has traditionally relied on counting growth band pairs, like tree rings, in vertebrae with the assumption that band pairs are deposited annually and are related to age," said Lisa Natanson, a fisheries biologist in the Apex Predators Program at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) and a co-author of the study.Scientists at NOAA's Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center in Honolulu have been working on how to accurately determine the age of a given species of fish by using two measures of radiation decay over time.The first method, bomb radiocarbon dating, is based on a time-specific event – in this case the atmospheric atomic bomb tests in the Pacific."In many cases, this is true for part or all of a species’ life, but at some point growth rates and age are not necessarily in sync. Deposition rates in vertebrae can change once the sharks reach sexual maturity, resulting in band pairs that are so thin they are unreadable. " Bomb radiocarbon dating is one of the best techniques for age validation in long-lived species like sharks.
Once validated, the band pair counts can provide a method for determining minimum estimates of longevity in white shark populations.
It can be used to determine ages for fish ranging from a few years to about 100 years.
The approach relies on a conserved record of the rapid increase in radiocarbon (14C) that occurred in the oceans of the world as a result of atmospheric testing of thermonuclear devices in the 1950's and 1960's.
Frenkel, a chemistry and earth and oceanographic science major, became a Clare Boothe Luce Research Fellow as well as a guest student at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
She’s now a graduate student at Columbia University.
Sharks are typically aged by counting alternating opaque and translucent band pairs deposited in sequence in their vertebrae.