Meet Chris Fischer from Ocearch today at HMNS!

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Today at HMNS – meet Chris Fischer, Founding Chairman and Expedition Leader for OCEARCH who will be here today at the opening of our new special exhibition Shark!

Event Details:
Friday, August 29
2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Glassell Hall in front of Shark! exhibit

Tickets:
FREE for members
Non-Members: Included with purchase of a ticket to our permanent exhibit halls.

About Chris Fischer:
Chris Fischer is the Founding Chairman and Expedition Leader for OCEARCH. Since 2007, he has led 20 global expeditions to advance science and education while unlocking the many mysteries surrounding the life history of white sharks and other giants of the ocean. He has facilitated millions of dollars in collaborative ocean research, supporting the work of over 70 scientists from more than 40 international and regional institutions, through his own financial resources and with the support of partners such as title sponsor Caterpillar Inc. Additional support comes from films sponsor Costa Sunglasses, Education Development partner Landry’s Inc., philanthropists and foundations, and the general public who make contributions through Rally.org.

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His work with OCEARCH has been aired on the National Geographic Channel and HISTORY in over 170 countries and has been documented in over 7,500 global media stories. The work, ranging from satellite tracking to biological studies is helping generate critical data required to better understand the health of our oceans by understanding the health of its apex predators. Fischer is an award-winning member of the Explorer’s Club with 10 flagged expeditions. His collaborative open-sourced approach has generated over 50 scientific papers in process to advance ocean sustainability through data-driven public policy while simultaneously advancing public safety and education.

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Chris’ ultimate goal is to explode the body of knowledge forward by enabling scientists and governments around the globe to generate groundbreaking data on the ocean’s apex predators in an open source environment. He’s also conceived a way to advance STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education through a free, dynamic shark-based OCEARCH K-12 curriculum available at OCEARCH.org, home of the Global Shark Tracker – which is also available as an iPhone and Android App.

What’s greater than a Great White? How’s about a Great White . . . IN THREE DIMENSIONS!

The sickeningly sleek, monstrously muscular body of the Great White shark is not quite appreciable in two dimensions.

See just how terrifying it is in three with Great White Shark: 3D, showing in the Giant Screen Theatre starting Mon., Aug. 26.

Great White Shark 3DThe stunning documentary film, shot over three years, takes viewers to Great White hot spots across the globe to re-introduce this majestic predator as a crucial member of the oceanic food chain, rather than the monster so often depicted in movies.

Using the latest digital technology, the film captures a Great White breaching — for the first time ever in 3D.

Hear from the experts and individuals whose lives these sharks have touched and learn more about the vital role they play with this stunning 3D feature.

Book tickets in advance here!

Shark Progressives in the Jurassic Period

Maybe you have heard this Shark Myth:
The Great White is a Living Fossil, a man-eating hold-over from the dim reaches of time.

No.  It is true that the oldest sharks do go back to 400 million years ago. However, an enormous amount of evolutionary change separates these primordial sharks from a modern-day Great White Shark. The final episode of shark modernization didn’t really get going until the Jurassic about 150 million years ago. The vertebral columns became far firmer and stronger, so the body and tail muscles could contract with greater power – and that meant faster speeds. The Great White and many other sharks alive today inherited their firm vertebrae from Jurassic ancestors. Plus – this  Darwinian revolution gave some sharks, including the ancestors of Great Whites, bigger brains and more complex behavior.

Guitar Fish Rhinobatis

The modernized sharks that evolved in the Jurassic included the “normal” shaped sharks and the flat-bodied skate/ray group. The skates and rays of the Late Jurassic at Solnhofen had already evolved a modern stage of vertebral column, fins and jaws. Guitar-fish are rays with long, elegant, pointed snouts. The Solnhofen Guitar Fish Rhinobatis is so thoroughly modern-looking that it would look at home today in Bermuda or Sumatra. Wide, flat pectoral fins and a flat underside let the guitar-fish hug the sand while searching for shrimp buried beneath. Special sensory organs could detect the electrical impulses from living bodies hidden from view. They had tightly packed rows of small, blunt teeth worked to crush clams, snails and other hard-shelled prey.

For some mysterious reason, people the world over look at these flat sharks and think of folk music and rock ‘n roll. Hence the nickname “Guitar Fish.” Because of a difference in the culture of stringed instruments, the guitar fish are called by a different name in Russia: here they are known as “Balalaika Fish.”

Poison Spine Sharks – Hybodonts

Solnhofen hosted both the most modern, advanced sharks and some hold-overs, families that were already a hundred million years old at the time. Hybodonts are an excellent example of ancient shark technology in body form. The vertebral column was still  constructed from soft connective tissue, not the tough cartilage of modern sharks. Hybodont teeth were dual function. Up front were sharply pointed nippers for grabbing prey. In the back were many flat teeth for crushing lobsters, crabs, snails, clams and sea urchins.

Hybodonts had the ancient way of protecting themselves from predators. They carried  poison-spines at the leading edge of the two dorsal fins. A gland at the base of the spine secreted venom that oozed up along a groove. Any predator that attacked would run the risk of getting a painful jab that would leave a throbbing wound.

How do we know about poison from hundreds of millions of years ago? Because there are some sharks today with this type of weaponry. The Horned Shark, Heterodontus, is a smallish species with a slow-swimming style. Both dorsal fins have spines, and venom is produced at the base of the spines. Horned Sharks are small enough to be swallowed whole by some bottom-living predators. But when the attacker feels the spines poking into the roof of its mouth, the Horned Shark is spit out with no harm done. The anatomy of Horned Shark spines is close enough to what we seen in fossilized hybodonts that we are safe to conclude that the hybodonts too were poisonous.

Another common shark alive today, the Spiny Dogfish, is also outfitted with hard spines and poison glands, though the toxic properties of the apparatus isn’t as extreme as that of Horned Sharks.

Poison spines go way back in shark evolution, and both fresh-water and salt-water species were equipped with the venom-delivery system in the Coal Age, some 340 million years ago. It’s intriguing that the modernization process in the Jurassic caused a shift – most of the new clans of sharks would give up the bigs spines. Great Whites are not protected by spines, nor are Tiger Sharks, Blue Sharks, Bull Sharks and most other “normal” sharks.

Why did so many progressive sharks discard the venom-delivering spines? The loss of spines occurred as the most advanced bony fish were shifting from thick, armored scales to thinner, more flexible body coverings. It looks like evolution favored speed and agility over passive defensive structures.

Learn more about evolution by visiting our unique collection of fossils in Archaeopteryx: Icon of Evolution, now on display at HMNS at Sugar Land.