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Watch a Shark Eat a Dead Pig for Science

What happens when a big, juicy pig gets dropped in the ocean? Well, shrimp and sharks devour it, of course.
October 30, 2012, 12:00am

Image by Ron Kimball

What happens when a big, juicy pig gets dropped in the ocean? Well, shrimp and sharks devour it, of course. That’s the result of an ongoing series of experiments by a Canadian researcher who’s studying decomposition and scavenger behavior in underwater systems and livestreaming the footage.

From New Scientist, which made the mix above:

Captured at a depth of 300 metres in the strait of Georgia near Vancouver Island, Canada, the footage is part of an experiment led by Gail Anderson from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, that uses dead pigs as models for human bodies. It aims to examine decomposition in an area with normal oxygen levels, where a range of scavengers are likely to visit. In a previous study conducted in a nearby inlet, body decay was affected by low oxygen levels, restricting sea life that fed on the remains.

In the first round of the experiment, the exposed carcasses didn’t last long with hungry sharks around. Anderson has since moved onto another study setup, in which two carcasses are sunk, one exposed and one in a cage, to compare what comes to eat them and how they eventually decompose. It’s a macabre scene, to be sure, but Anderson’s focus is on forensic ecology, and studying how bodies decompose underwater is important for reconstructing wet crime scenes. Just like the work of the Body Farm in Tennessee, forensic research isn’t usually pretty, but it’s grisly research that’s crucial to authorities.

Follow Derek Mead on Twitter: @derektmead.