They rarely get cancer. Their wounds heal much faster than humans’. Their unique skin makes for a low-drag glide through the water that engineers envy. Scientists say sharks have much to teach us: from how we treat illnesses to how to make better ships, undersea robots or even swim suits.
But despite the huge popularity of sharks as research subjects, the wonders of their physiology and behavior remain mostly a mystery.
Among the more notable “holy grails” of ongoing shark inquiry:
• Ship building. Boat makers marvel at how sharks have incredibly low drag relative to other fish, a hydrodynamics enabled by scales that resemble tiny backwards-pointing shark teeth. Something in their skin mucus also keeps sharks free of barnacles and other so-called “biofouling.” Shipbuilders hope to mimic similar engineering and “anti-fouling” feats so fleets can save on fuel.