Shark teeth found in ocean display: Sea Life Centre Blackpool staff discover 12,000 teeth in sea bed

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Find: The shark teeth had accumulated over 23 years (Caters)

Sea Life Centre keepers who drained an ocean display were left in shock when they discovered more than 12,000 shark teeth hidden in the sea bed.

Staff at the Blackpool attraction were filtering through a refurbished ocean display when they pulled out thousands of the deadly shark fangs which had accumulated over 23 years.

The deep sea predators are known to lose one tooth a week on average, but staff admitted they were still 'astounded' by the amount of teeth discovered.

Scientists now plan to use the teeth as part of a probe into global warming - hoping the teeth will enable them to perfect a scientific technique which records ocean temperatures.

Experts have found that oxygen atoms in the discarded teeth can reveal the temperature the sharks lived in, and hope that when the technique is perfected, it can be used to study fossilised shark teeth].

This technique will then help them determine the changing temperature of the world's oceans over the centuries.

Blackpool Sea Life senior aquarist Scott Blacker said: "We always found a few teeth whenever we dived in the tank, but we were all astounded just how many were lurking in every handful of gravel.

"It's a delicate job sorting them out, because they tend to be the same colour as the gravel and easy to overlook.

"It's great to know that our sharks are helping some really pioneering research."

The Sea Life display has been drained to install new windows and a major refurbishment and its resident sharks have moved to temporary quarters in London and Weymouth.

Research leader Dr Ivan Sansom, a senior lecturer in palaeobiology at the University of Birmingham, said: "We have teeth from every shark species that lived in the tank, including lots of sand tiger teeth, a species that hasn't featured in the display for over eight years.

"Most sharks have rows of teeth and shed them regularly. The biggest number we have are from black-tipped reef sharks, but that's hardly surprising since this species sheds a whole row of over 40 teeth every month.

"The new specimens we are getting from Blackpool will validate preliminary observations and help refine research with fossil teeth.

"The ultimate aim is to better understand how cooling waters in prehistoric times drove evolutionary change while warming waters led to extinctions.

"Current evidence from the past suggests we are going to see mass extinctions as our own oceans warm up."

Blackpool Sea Life's tropical sharks will move back into their new-look home in March, along with more than 300 shoaling fish.

Dr Sansom hopes to publish the detailed results of his team's findings in scientific journals this summer.

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