Shark That Killed Maui Surfer Identified by DNA from Its Mucus

They took samples from the mucus left behind on the surfer's board.
Loukia Papadopoulos

In what was a horrid accident, a 56-year-old Maui surfer called Robin Warren was bitten by a shark in Honolua Bay and died of his injuries the next day, reported Hawaii News Now. The incident which happened 10 days ago left the community shock and aghast.


Seeking some peace

Now, in an attempt to bring some peace to the matter, researchers have used DNA from the shark's mucus to identify what type of shark it was and how large it was. The mucus was left behind on the surfer's board.

“I feel like when you lose somebody like that, you generally want to know as much information about the situation as you can,” Derek Kraft, of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, told Hawaii News Now. “So, this at least lets us give them the fullest picture to our ability.”

The researchers entered the DNA they extracted into a database that matches genetic samples to specific shark species.

A tiger shark

“It tells you the percentage match to the reference samples, and we got 100% match on several, several hits,” Kraft said. “So it’s a tiger shark. If it was another species, that’s what the database would have shown.”

Dr. Carl Meyers, who works alongside Kraft, explained that these databases are powerful tools that can take a tiny amount of DNA and then amplify it to produce conclusive results.

In addition, from the bite, the researchers were also able to measure the shark's size which was 14.3 feet (4.35 meters). Although the team was able to pinpoint the exact size and species, it would take a more complex test called DNA fingerprinting to possibly find the specific shark involved in the attack.

"They have used this technology with bears actually, up in Alaska,” Kraft said. “When there are bear attacks on people. So the technology exists. We just haven’t applied it to sharks yet.”

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