Science Questions

How do sharks make blood?

Sat, 3rd Oct 2009

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Aaron, Physicist, Michigan asked:

I know that blood is made inside the cavity of our bones. Given that sharks are cartilaginous fish, how do they make blood?


We put this question to Mark Briffa, lecturer in marine biology at the University of Plymouth:

Mark -   In vertebrates, a major component of the blood is the red blood cell or erythrocytes and this can make up the half volume of the blood and itís these cells that contain haemoglobin and do the job of transporting oxygen around the circulatory system.  Oceanic Whitetip SharkNow in adult humans, and other mammals these red blood cells are made in the red bone marrow and this is the soft tissue found inside the hollow bones of tetrapods or four-limbed vertebrates which as well as the mammals include amphibians, reptiles and birds.  But red bone marrow isnít the only site where red blood cells are produced and in bony fish and cartilaginous fish that donít have bones like sharks and rays, the main places where red blood cells are made are in the spleen and in the front section of the kidneys.  And some sharks also have the unique organ called Leydig's organ which is actually absent in the other vertebrates, and this is a large organ thatís wrapped around the oesophagus.  And although it was discovered way back in 1857, very little is known about exactly what it does, but itís thought that it might play some additional role in producing red blood cells and also in the immune system.  So, although bone marrow is important for making red blood cells in humans; in fish, the most important site seems to be the spleen.


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They have a special organ called the Leydig's Organ. And if that is absent, as it is in some species of elasmobranchs, RBC production is done by the spleen. JnA, Sun, 27th Sep 2009

yes.. though Chris was surprised. JnA, Wed, 7th Oct 2009

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