We’re digging into our archives again to bring you more unaired vet stories from our past interview with Dr. Brittany Stevens, a veterinarian here at the Science Center. She takes care of all our animals when they get sick and need to go to the doctor. In her past episodes, Brittany told us about her vet exam room, how she cares for so many different animals, and even what it’s like to do surgery on an eel.
We’re always surprised to learn about the wide variety of animals Brittany treats. And one especially amazing example came up in our interview: sharks!
Do you ever wonder if our sharks go to the doctor?
The Science Center’s Kelp Forest exhibit is home to several leopard sharks and horn sharks. These sharks get an annual check-up to keep them healthy. In this clip, Brittany describes what a shark check-up is like and some of the health conditions these exams help treat and prevent
Have a question you've been wondering about? Send an email or voice recording to the podcast team to tell us what you'd like to hear in future episodes.
Perry Roth-Johnson (00:06):
Hello, this is Ever Wonder? from the California Science Center. I'm Perry Roth Johnson. We're digging into our archives again to bring you more unaired vet stories from our past interview with Dr. Brittany Stevens, a veterinarian here at the science center. She takes care of all our animals when they get sick and need to go to the doctor. In her past episodes, Brittany told us about her vet exam room, how she cares for so many different animals and even what it's like to do surgery on an eel. I'm always surprised to learn about the wide variety of animals Brittany treats. And one especially amazing example came up in our interview sharks. Do you ever wonder if our sharks go to the doctor? The science center's kelp forest exhibit is home to several leopard sharks and horn sharks. These sharks get an annual checkup to keep them healthy. And in this clip, Brittany describes what a shark checkup is like and some of the health conditions these exams help treat and prevent, check it out.
Perry Roth-Johnson (01:07):
One type of animal that I've always like had a little bit of a uh hebejebe feeling is sharks. And we don't have huge sharks at the science center. We have, we have smaller sharks, but like, how do you treat a shark without getting hurt?
Brittany Stevens (01:21):
Um, so it's nice in that our sharks are smaller. Um, at the Aquarium of the Pacific, we do have ones that are up to 14 feet long, so it's a little different.
Perry Roth-Johnson (01:30):
Brittany Stevens (01:31):
But our guys are not too big. I think they're about maybe four, four and a half feet or so. Um, so for those guys, um, and a lot of you might be shocked to know that we actually do do annual exams on all of our elasmobranchs.
Perry Roth-Johnson (01:45):
Brittany Stevens (01:45):
So we are very big on preventative medicine here at the California Science Center. We wanna catch things before they become a problem. So just like you or I might go to a doctor for our annual kind of checkup, um, a lot of our animals here at the science center come to me for their annual checkup. Um, so sharks being one of 'em. So when it comes to time to do their kind of annual checkups, the way we work around it is the divers go in and they're actually, um, very nice and kind of chill.
Brittany Stevens (02:15):
Sharks, which is good. They don't tend to stress out. Um, so they're able to kind of, um, capture them in a net and bring them up slowly to the surface. Um, we bring them to the area, what's called divers entrance. So if you guys have visited the science center, it's that kind of shallow area, um, that has steps leading down into it. And we kind of block it off with a gate so that the sharks can swim around in there. And then when it's time for that animal's exam to occur, um, we once again use a net, um, pick them up and then place them into a large, what's called isolation bin, um, that has that MS-222 anesthetic dissolved in it. And basically then they can swim around in that anesthetic till they get nice and sleepy. Um, and then once they're sleepy, we can, um, get our hands on them, check out their eyes, check out their spiracles and their gill slits and, um, look inside their mouth. Um, we also do an ultrasound of their belly to check out their internal organs. Um, I palpate their belly to make sure I don't feel anything funny.
Perry Roth-Johnson (03:15):
Palpate? What does that mean?
Brittany Stevens (03:16):
Um, palpate is like what your doctor does when they put their hands on your tummy and kind of push around. So it's kinda the medical term for feeling around.
Perry Roth-Johnson (03:25):
Brittany Stevens (03:25):
Sounds funny. You don't wanna hear that your doctor's feeling around. You would hear that they're palpating you right?
Perry Roth-Johnson (03:29):
Yeah, no I understand now why you use palpate. That makes a lot of sense.
Brittany Stevens (03:31):
Um, so it's, I'm trying to feel their internal organs through their, um, their body wall basically and sometimes you can actually feel things. Um, so like our horn sharks for example, lay eggs, um, and they have, um, hard cases that they put around their eggs. And so if they have eggs present, I can actually usually feel that I'm just palpating along their belly. So you can't feel some cool stuff. Um, unfortunately I've also felt things like tumors, um, in a shark when doing a palpation. Um, and then usually once we feel something like that, we'll double check it with ultrasound. Cause that actually gives us a nice image, visual image of the internal anatomy as well.
Perry Roth-Johnson (04:12):
Wait, so sharks and other aquatic animals can get tumors and like other kinds of cancers, just like humans can?
Brittany Stevens (04:19):
Yeah, they definitely can. Um, sharks don't get tumors nearly as often as people do. That's actually an area of research, um, that scientists are looking into as to why sharks don't get cancer. Um, there's broad categories of disease that tend to affect everything. Um, so amphibians, fish, birds, mammals, everything can get cancer. Um, but for some reason sharks are a, a taxon of animals or a group of animals that don't tend to get it quite as often. So, um, researchers are trying to look into see what is special about them, but they don't get it as often as other animals. Um, but they still can get it unfortunately. You live long enough unfortunately, yourselves kind of tend to go haywire and you know, something probably is gonna go bad at some point.
Perry Roth-Johnson (05:10):
That's our show, and thanks for listening until next time keep wondering. Ever Wonder? from the California Science Center is produced by me, Perry Roth-Johnson, along with Jennifer Aguirre, Liz Roth-Johnson is our editor. Theme music provided by Michael Nickolas and Pond5. We'll drop new episodes every other Wednesday. If you're a fan of the show, be sure to subscribe and leave us a rating or review on Apple Podcasts. It really helps other people discover our show. Have a question you've been wondering about? Send an email or voice recording to [email protected], to tell us what you'd like to hear in future episodes.