Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dead Pigs Used to Investigate Dead Zones

I, for one, am a huge fan of pigs. Porky pig, Babe, Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web and so forth. Especially when they’re dead because who doesn’t love bacon? Apologies to all of the vegans and vegetarians out there! But this interesting use of dead pigs in order to further research dead zones is one that is unique and perhaps, never graced a scientist’s mind until now.

Pigs anatomy is quite similar to us humans as we “share their relatively hairless skin, are similar in size, and our flesh has a similar make-up” according to an article from BBC NEWS. A group of scientists from Canada collaborated on the idea of using dead pigs to study the effects of what happens to them when put in these dead zone areas. What then happened is Dr. Verena Tunnicliffe, professor of marine biology at the University of Victoria in Canada, and her team set out to find out "how low marine scavengers would go, in terms of oxygen, for a free lunch.”

Three pigs were lowered into different depths of sea levels, the first at the shallowest and the third at the deepest in order to see how far the sea creatures would make the trek, in low oxygen waters, in order to get the food. What results is a free-for-all buffet, guests ranging from crabs, shrimp, octopus and sea stars. Later in the research six-gill sharks were found devouring the pigs.

The purpose of the study, according to Tunnicliffe, is to recognize that "These scavengers get the carbon cycle back. We have to get the nutrients back in the system and start this restoration process." She says that this provides insight into how marine ecosystems can recover from hypoxia - and that it gives scientists some hope.


- Luann Algoso

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