In the wild, blacktip reef sharks are often seen bearing wounds, but they rarely exhibit obvious signs of infection around the wounds.
So researchers set out to discover how shark wounds remain infection-free.
As a first step toward understanding this phenomenon, an international team led by researchers at KAUST’s Red Sea Research Center investigated the microbial community living on the skin of sharks.
The team collected skin mucus samples from the backs and gills of wild-caught blacktip reef sharks around the Seychelles Islands.
The team’s analysis revealed no difference between the bacterial communities on injured skin on gills and uninjured gills or backs.
In other words, there was no evidence of infection around the wounds.
“We were surprised not to find any substantial change in the skin bacterial communities,” says Claudia Pogoreutz, the postdoctoral fellow who led the study.
“This suggests shark skin doesn’t become infected easily and that the native bacterial community of the skin can be maintained even after injury,” she adds.
“We really need to delve deeper into bacterial functions and innate immunity of sharks to understand what is really going on and how wound healing in sharks is mediated.”