A Scavenging Song

Sea air shimmers in the evening haze;

The gentle rays from a setting sun

Reflect the remnants of the passing storm,

Cascading skywards in prismic hues to

Dry the feathers of the Eastern Meadowlarks

That drowsily skim the ocean’s skin.

Beneath translucent, foaming waves

Shapes begin to dance, unseen;

Their shrill stripes intertwined

With shadows cast by faded clouds.

Noses blunt as knuckles pierce the mist,

Meeting wearied, sodden wings

With crescendos of such force that they

Tear the very fabric of the sky.

A floating feather the only witness

That there had once been song.

A Tiger Shark in the Bahamas (Image Credit: Albert Kok, via Wikimedia Commons).

This poem is inspired by recent research, which has found that tiger sharks eat songbirds such as sparrows, woodpeckers, and doves.

Tiger sharks are consummate scavengers, with excellent senses of sight and smell and sharp, highly serrated teeth and powerful jaws that allow them to crack the shells of sea turtles and clams. Alongside sea snakes and marine mammals, they have also been known to eat whale carcasses and even rubber tires, granting them the nickname ‘garbage cans of the sea’.

New research has now shown that younger tiger sharks have an equally varied and unusual diet. By analysing the stomach contents of 105 juvenile tiger sharks, researchers found bird remains in just under half of them. As the birds were partially digested, it was hard to tell exactly what kinds of birds they were, so the bird remains were sent for DNA analysis. The results took the researchers by surprise, as instead of marine birds (like gulls or pelicans) the analysis revealed familiar backyard birds like sparrows, woodpeckers, and doves. It is now thought that tiger sharks scavenge on songbirds that have trouble flying over the ocean, and which make more attractive prey than seabirds which handle themselves better in and around the water.

An audio version of this poem can be heard here:

 

 

3 thoughts on “A Scavenging Song”

  1. Thanks, Sam, for this wonderful poem. I was the editor of this paper in Ecology’s new series The Scientific Naturalist. It was a fun paper to read and it has been receiving a lot of publicity, including in Science’s daily newsletter:

    https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/05/forget-seabirds-baby-tiger-sharks-feast-songbirds-gulf-mexico?utm_campaign=news_daily_2019-05-22&et_rid=34835491&et_cid=2828346

    I will send it to the authors as well.

    Best regards.

    • Thanks John,

      That is very kind of you. Thank you for helping to publish such brilliant work. 😊

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