SHARKS at Scarborough Sea Life Centre are set to help scientists unravel the mysteries of ancient seas.
That will be the goal of a major research project announced as the centres prepare to mark European Shark Week this month, to promote shark conservation.
Clues to marine biological diversity over millions of years may be locked up in sharks’ teeth, researchers believe.
Oxygen isotopes which are incorporated into sharks’ teeth as they develop can reveal the temperature of the seawater the shark lived in at the time.
Now a research team led by Dr Ivan Sansom, a senior lecturer in Palaeobiology at the University of Birmingham, hopes Sea Life Centre sharks will establish whether this applies to all shark teeth, or just certain species.
He said: “That will validate the study of age-old fossil shark teeth as a technique to learn more about sea conditions in prehistoric times.
“With the current evidence for warming oceans the evidence from the past suggests we are going to see a major extinction in our oceans.
“Reconstructing past climate systems using evidence such as that we hope to find in shark teeth may help us understand what happened in the past, and what may happen in the future.”
The initial research, funded by the EU’s Marie Curie Fellowship scheme, involving teeth collected from the bed of Sea Life Centre ocean tanks will take two years to complete.