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Monday, October 17, 2011

Diver balances shark VERTICALLY in palm of her hand... after putting it in a trance

By Wil Longbottom

This is the jaws-dropping moment a scuba diver literally holds a 10ft shark in the palm of her hand.

Italian diver Cristina Zenato can clearly be seen doing what many would believe unthinkable - stroking, touching and holding a large ocean predator in tropical Caribbean waters.

The animal is so at ease with her it goes into a trance state, allowing Ms Zenato to hold it vertically in the water with its nose in her hand.

And for my next trick: Christina Zenato 'balances' a Caribbean reef shark in her hand after coaxes it into a trance-like state

She induces the 'tonic' state in the shark using a little-known technique of rubbing the ampullae of Lorenzini - the name given to hundreds of jelly-filled pores around the animal's nose and mouth.

A 'tonic' state is where a shark enters a natural state of paralysis, often by being turned upside down, for up to 15 minutes.

The pores act as electroreceptors detecting prey moving in the electromagnetic field around the shark - but also for some reason rubbing them turns 'Jaws' into a sleeping baby.

Ms Zenato uses her ability to put the sharks in a sleepy state to educate other divers, remove parasites and even take fishing hooks caught in their mouths out.

Photographer Matthew Meier, from San Diego, U.S., captured the moment she brought a Caribbean Reef shark under control.

The 42-year-old said: 'My first time to witness Cristina feeding the sharks was amazing. I expected an adrenaline rush, but the dive was so peaceful and calm.

'It was totally relaxing to watch the sharks swim slow circles around us in hopes of being fed by Cristina. I was in awe and could not keep the smile off my face.

'Sharks are the apex predator of the ocean and it is a privilege to be near them and observe them in their world.'

Smile for the camera: Ms Zenato rubs jelly-filled pores around the sharks' nose and mouth to induce an almost sleep-like state

Ms Zenato has been working with sharks for more than 15 years, but still wears a chain link suit in case one of the animals is tempted to bite.

Mr Meier, a commercial photographer who specialises in underwater, nature and travel, said he hoped to raise awareness of the plight of sharks.

He said: 'We kill millions of sharks every year, with the majority of those having their fins cut off while still alive and then thrown back into the water to die a slow, agonising death.

'If this were happening to dolphins or something cute and cuddly, the would would be up in arms.

'We must fight to save these amazing creatures, as they keep the balance within the ocean and without them the entire ecosystem will be thrown off and forever damaged.'



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