Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Take a bite out of the Bullock’s newest exhibit chronicling history, science of sharks

Skyler Sharp
A father and son exit the Shark Exhibit at the Bullock Texas State History Museum on Nov. 26, 2023. This exhibit will be on view until Mar. 24, 2024.

The Bullock Texas State History Museum opened a new exhibition on Nov. 11 exploring the diversities and evolutionary history of sharks. 

John Sparks, a curator in the Department of Ichthyology at The American Museum of Natural History, created the exhibit titled “Sharks.” Within the exhibit, visitors participate in immersive activities and view life-sized shark models, fossil casts and videos.

According to the exhibit’s website, “We hope people walk away from this exciting exhibition with a new appreciation for sharks and understand they are magnificent creatures that should be revered, not feared.”

The Bullock is the first museum “Sharks” traveled to, and it leaves March 24. Split into three distinct sections, the bilingual exhibit examines sharks then and now, diversity and adaptation and sharks and us, giving visitors insight into the species’ many complexities. 

“I think a lot of people have a certain idea of what a shark is, but if they go through this exhibit, they’re going to have a much different perspective about just how diverse they are, and what they can look like, and what they hunt,” said James McReynolds, associate curator at the Bullock Museum.

Danny Coffey, a biology professor at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, said sharks are critical to maintaining a healthy ecosystem directly and indirectly. Coffey said sharks are often misunderstood because of false representation.

“It all boils down to education, and unfortunately, there are some educational resources out there that like to glorify that scary part of sharks because it attracts potentially more viewers to a program,” Coffey said. 

Coffey said learning about sharks is important to overcoming this normalized fear of sharks. 

“These exhibits and aquariums and zoos are really important because it’s hard for people to appreciate what they can’t see or don’t fully understand,” Coffey said. “This new shark exhibit is a great opportunity to educate the public and for them to see these magnificent animals in a totally safe way.”

Out of the 1,200 different species of cartilaginous fishes, like sharks and rays, about 400 are endangered. McReynolds said there are many different ways people can get involved to save these species, including the encouragement of federal and state fishing management.

“Besides the fact that (the exhibit) is a lot of fun, I think it’s really important for people to realize the effects that people have on the environment and about the other creatures that we share the planet with,” McReynolds said. “If you like seafood, if you like fishing, if you like healthy oceans, then you should love sharks because if they are not there, then the whole ecosystem collapses.”

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