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Marian Perera
02-21-2014, 04:53 PM
Hi everyone,

This is an idea I'm toying with - basically, a shark being deliberately infected with rabies. In the series I'm working on at the moment, sharks are trained by an organization to act as scouts for ships, and I was thinking of someone infiltrating the organization to turn the sharks against them.

I've read that rabies is a primarily a disease of warm-blooded animals, but in scientific experiments, the virus has been adapted to grow in the cells of poikilothermic vertebrates as well. For the purposes of the story (which is fantasy), I can go with this being a special mutant strain.

My question is about the symptoms. The unpredictable, aggressive behavior is perfect. The paralysis of the throat muscles, maybe not. How would this affect a shark? If the answer is, the shark would probably drown, then obviously I need to reconsider.

Thanks for your input. :)

Mr Flibble
02-21-2014, 04:59 PM
I think the hydrophobia that often develops could be used to great effect here. A shark who's afraid of water? Hehehe


I think (could be wrong) that the hydrophobia goes with the furious rabies, and the paralysis more with the dumb rabies (which isn't as common). So the aggression/hydrophobia wouldn't be present at the same time as paralysis (maybe when it becomes more advanced).


Ah, this link (http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Rabies/Pages/Symptoms.aspx) gives a bit of info - the hydrophobia includes brief muscle spasms in the throat. So not paralysis exactly. (Paralysis occurs at end stage in animals it notes) You could go with that? Still, I think the fear of water would send them even doolally-er. Perhaps resulting in more aggression?

Steve Collins
02-21-2014, 04:59 PM
Do they have to be sharks? Dolphins are warm blooded and I guess would be better suited to being a rabies carrier. Also they are trained far more easily than sharks. For example they have been trained by many countries to carry explosives etc. Just a thought.

Marian Perera
02-21-2014, 05:05 PM
Do they have to be sharks? Dolphins are warm blooded and I guess would be better suited to being a rabies carrier. Also they are trained far more easily than sharks. For example they have been trained by many countries to carry explosives etc. Just a thought.

Well, the first two in the series, featuring a great white and a tiger shark, have been sold and can't be rewritten with dolphins.

Also, I really didn't want to go the Flipper or Free Willy route. I wanted something which (to the best of my knowledge) hasn't been done before. And to me, there would have been no fun or challenge in writing about a dolphin. It was a whole lot more of a rush to write a great white shark that behaved like a shark, but which was still a sympathetic character.

Since it's a fantasy, the sharks have mental/empathic bonds to certain people, which is how they're trained.

Marian Perera
02-21-2014, 05:16 PM
I think the hydrophobia that often develops could be used to great effect here. A shark who's afraid of water?

Oh wow. I can just imagine. :D

Thanks for the link. Irritability, anxiety and fatigue are all good - obvious signs that something's not quite right, but not pointing to rabies or turning the shark into a frothing-at-the-mouth horror right away.

Then we get into advanced rabies, where the shark is aggressive, hallucinates, has photophobia, has a sustained erection... OK, maybe not the last one. Though I really didn't know that happened to men with the disease.


Ah, this link (http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Rabies/Pages/Symptoms.aspx) gives a bit of info - the hydrophobia includes brief muscle spasms in the throat. Maybe this will work, then. The shark won't feel painful muscle spasms each time it breathes, just each time it swallows.

I've read that sharks breathe by water entering their mouths, which is why they suffocate if they stop swimming. Some species can also pull in water through movements of their cheek muscles, and some can switch between both mechanisms, but the great white isn't one of them. It has to "just keep swimming", to quote Finding Nemo.

Does anyone know which mechanism the tiger shark uses? I'm just worried that a rabid adult great white might be a bit much for anyone to handle, though I could always make it a juvenile instead.

robjvargas
02-21-2014, 05:31 PM
NOTE: The Centers for Disease Control (http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/transmission/) say all mammals are susceptible to rabies. And *only* mammals.

Being a fantasy, it could mutate, I suppose. But the rabies that we know won't infect a shark.

Mr Flibble
02-21-2014, 05:34 PM
Right

Two sorts of breathing in sharks -- buccal pumping (they can pump water over their gills independent of movement) or ram ventilation (movement rams water over the gills)

Only a few sharks are obligate ram ventilators (they have to keep swimming) and I don't think the tiger is one of them, though the great white is.

This link (http://www.livescience.com/34777-sharks-keep-swimming-or-die.html) says tiger sharks can swap between the two depending on how fast they are moving. So they don't have to keep swimming, where a great white does

Albedo
02-21-2014, 05:40 PM
Rabies is transmitted through saliva. Sharks don't secrete saliva to my knowledge. They do have certain glands for excreting salt, but those are in the rectum. Maybe not very good vectors for the rabies virus.

According to this review (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2781142/), hydrophobia only occurs in humans, but I've seen other sources say otherwise. The mechanism of hydrophobia isn't really known, and the pharyngeal musculature of sharks is very different from mammalian musculature. You could explain it away fairly easily.

Mr Flibble
02-21-2014, 05:42 PM
I reckon it's only that it's hard to know if a dog is afraid of water because it can't exactly say, and it's not like most of them will willingly jump into a bath in any case....:D

I think you could probably make a case for it. Especially in fantasy (or if you had a disease that gave similar symptoms, but wasn't explicitly called rabies)

Marian Perera
02-21-2014, 05:47 PM
Rabies is transmitted through saliva. Sharks don't secrete saliva to my knowledge. They do have certain glands for excreting salt, but those are in the rectum. Maybe not very good vectors for the rabies virus.

Thanks! A rabid shark would make for some terrific action scenes and chases through training pools, but I don't want it to infect every other (healthy, normal) shark with a bite. Partly because there would be no treatment and they'd all have to be killed before they could manifest symptoms.

Helix
02-21-2014, 05:49 PM
This link (http://www.livescience.com/34777-sharks-keep-swimming-or-die.html) says tiger sharks can swap between the two depending on how fast they are moving. So they don't have to keep swimming, where a great white does

I was having a look too because it was an interesting question! That link refers to a tiger shark but all the other pages that offer the same info say that a sand tiger shark is the one that can switch between modes. A sand tiger shark a.k.a grey nurse shark is not even in the same family as yer actual tiger shark. *shakes fist at common names*

Marian Perera
02-21-2014, 05:50 PM
Especially in fantasy (or if you had a disease that gave similar symptoms, but wasn't explicitly called rabies)

I'll have to think about this.

I was originally going to call it rabies because the name has a visceral effect on me, but there are other options. "Hydrophobia" wouldn't work, but the word "rabies" means madness.

*ponders*

Would it be detrimental if I called the disease rabies?

Albedo
02-21-2014, 05:55 PM
Love this thread.

I'm gunna have circles under my eyes tomorrow and people will ask me if I had a big night last night and I'll answer 'yes, I was up all night discussing shark rabies' and they will give me That Look again.

QoS: maybe 'shark Lyssavirus?' That's what we in Oz call our own homegrown rabies virus: 'bat Lyssavirus'. Very politically correct.

Helix
02-21-2014, 05:58 PM
Same here, Albedo!

And I was going to say something very silly along the lines of 'but you can always be vaccinated against rabies', but luckily it occurred to me just in time that if you were attacked by a tiger shark the last thing you'd be worrying about is an infection. Phew! I'm glad I didn't post that comment.

Oh...

Mr Flibble
02-21-2014, 06:01 PM
I was having a look too because it was an interesting question! That link refers to a tiger shark but all the other pages that offer the same info say that a sand tiger shark is the one that can switch between modes. A sand tiger shark a.k.a grey nurse shark is not even in the same family as yer actual tiger shark. *shakes fist at common names*

Yeah I couldn't find much info on which sharks use which method -- that was the only one that mentioned "tiger" sharks (I did find one minor ref to tiger sharks having been found "sleeping" in caves off of Mexico, so obviously not obligates)

However, I discovered even if they don't name them, most sharks apparently don't need to keep moving (only a dozen species or so?)

Infuriatingly there doesn't seem to be any kind of list telling you which is which!



I'm gunna have circles under my eyes tomorrow and people will ask me if I had a big night last night and I'll answer 'yes, I was up all night discussing shark rabies' and they will give me That Look again.Lunchtime here, but I know what you mean!

ETA: Found this (http://www.elasmo-research.org/education/topics/b_40_winks.htm) re "sleeping sharks" in the caves:


To date, at least four and possibly five species of whaler shark are known to enter the caves at Isla Mujeres: the Caribbean Reef, Tiger (Galeocerdo cuvier), Lemon (Negaprion brevirostris), Blue (Prionace glauca), and probably the Bull (Carcharhinus leucas).

Albedo
02-21-2014, 06:01 PM
And I just found out that lyssaviruses are named after Lyssa, Greek goddess of madness, rage and frenzy. Awesome.

Helix
02-21-2014, 06:09 PM
Yeah I couldn't find much info on which sharks use which method -- that was the only one that mentioned "tiger" sharks (I did find one minor ref to tiger sharks having been found "sleeping" in caves off of Mexico, so obviously not obligates)

Cool! Somehow the idea of slumbering tiger sharks is even more intimidating...

Mr Flibble
02-21-2014, 06:13 PM
In the link I found about it, that particular cave's water is very oxygen rich and may have a narcotic effect on the sharks

So, high, sleeping sharks.

Marian Perera
02-21-2014, 06:14 PM
Cool! Somehow the idea of slumbering tiger sharks is even more intimidating...

I read somewhere (Peter Benchley's Shark Trouble, maybe?) that a scuba diver once saw a grey nurse shark sleeping quietly in a cave.

So he decided to pull its tail, for some reason. It's a nurse shark, right? Not one of the dangerous species.

He pulled, the shark woke up in a panic, twisted around and swam out so fast that it bumped into him and knocked his regulator out. The genius was lucky nothing worse happened.

Marian Perera
02-21-2014, 06:17 PM
In the link I found about it, that particular cave's water is very oxygen rich and may have a narcotic effect on the sharks

So, high, sleeping sharks.

Oh, this is a great detail.

I know sharks don't take well to captivity and small tanks, so I knew I'd have to address that when writing about training pools, especially the kind where the sharks would be held for long periods of time. I was thinking some kind of mild drug being added to the water.

Marian Perera
02-21-2014, 06:20 PM
And I just found out that lyssaviruses are named after Lyssa, Greek goddess of madness, rage and frenzy. Awesome.

I couldn't use "Lyssavirus" because the technology level of the world is Age of Steam (so they don't know about viruses), but now I want the word "Lyssa" to make an appearance somewhere. Even if it's just the name of the person who deliberately infects the shark.

Helix
02-21-2014, 06:21 PM
From Mr Flibble's great link:


Divers report that the eyes of these sharks follow them intently as they move about inside the cave...Dear heaven. I am not going to sleep tonight and I'm 740m above sea level.

QoS, I don't think I'd even do that to a dogfish! This completely irrelevant story about a small wobbegong (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/3478747.stm) still makes me smile.

Albedo
02-21-2014, 06:31 PM
Woebegone wobbegong won't be gone.

Marian Perera
02-21-2014, 06:33 PM
Dear heaven. I am not going to sleep tonight and I'm 740m above sea level.

That was a great link.

I'm going to have one training pool with these built-in caves, partly so that sharks who are injured can be examined (by people) while they lie motionless, enjoying the water. And yeah, the detail about their eyes.


QoS, I don't think I'd even do that to a dogfish! This completely irrelevant story about a small wobbegong (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/3478747.stm) still makes me smile.

No, I wouldn't deliberately mess with any creature in the water either. If I want to play with fish, I'll get a betta or a pearl gourami or something.

Funny story about the wobbegong. Can't believe it didn't let go even when it couldn't breathe any longer. At least the guy gave it a nice funeral.

jclarkdawe
02-21-2014, 07:10 PM
I think you might have a problem with the mechanics of the bite. Sharks bite in water, and that water tends to flush the wound out. Rabies is from mammals on land, and the saliva stays in the wound.

Further, mammals have incisors, whereas I think the teeth for a shark are roughly uniform in size. You want an uneven bite that doesn't lend itself to being cleaned.

Although infection can set in with shark bites, it seems to me it is a lot less frequent then with bites on land.

On the flip side, how many people would know that rabies is a disease of warm blooded animals and how bites work?

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Marian Perera
02-21-2014, 07:24 PM
I think you might have a problem with the mechanics of the bite. Sharks bite in water, and that water tends to flush the wound out. Rabies is from mammals on land, and the saliva stays in the wound.

I'll go with the rabies being originally introduced by a deep penetrative wound delivered by a person (the person doesn't have rabies; they're using some kind of weapon to introduce saliva from an infected dog). I doubt the water would be able to flush the wound out if it was deep enough.

As for the Patient Zero infecting others? I'm sure the terrorist or whoever sets this up is hoping for that result, but even if it doesn't happen, one rabid shark rampaging through training pools will be devastating enough.



On the flip side, how many people would know that rabies is a disease of warm blooded animals and how bites work?Good point. :)

As they say, it doesn't have to be realistic so much as believable.

Koschei
02-22-2014, 03:07 PM
Marine biologist currently studying Aquatic Veterinary Science here.

If you want an aquatic alternative to throat muscle paralysis that won't kill the shark, you could use paralysis of the first few gill arches, leaving the others functional (it's a shame sharks don't have an operculum as this would have been a better option). This means gill function is still possible so the shark would survive but, keep in mind, respiration efficiency will be significantly decreased.

Another option could be that the virus causes a response in the animal that results in proliferation of the gill filaments. While this makes respiration difficult, so long as there are some filaments unaffected (which is usually the case, so it's not that farfetched), they are still functional and the animal can survive.

Also, common pitfall, when referring to fish, we don't say "symptoms", we say "clinical signs". This is because the animal can't tell you exactly what's wrong and what it's feeling so all you have to go on is what you can see for yourself.

Sorry if I got a little carried away here.

mrsmig
02-22-2014, 05:56 PM
Threads like this one are the reason I read the Story Research forum obsessively. Fascinating discussion.

frimble3
02-23-2014, 07:21 AM
Well, the first two in the series, featuring a great white and a tiger shark, have been sold and can't be rewritten with dolphins.

Also, I really didn't want to go the Flipper or Free Willy route. I wanted something which (to the best of my knowledge) hasn't been done before. And to me, there would have been no fun or challenge in writing about a dolphin. It was a whole lot more of a rush to write a great white shark that behaved like a shark, but which was still a sympathetic character.

Since it's a fantasy, the sharks have mental/empathic bonds to certain people, which is how they're trained.

Aside from the rabies, having that catchy, easily recognisable name, ihow committed are you to rabies as the cause? If trying to make rabies a non-mammalian disease is too much of a stretch, how about having the shark drugged?
That way to wouldn't have to explain why the other sharks weren't infected, and the disease itself wouldn't automatically kill the shark. I imagine giving a shark drugged bait wouldn't be hard.
Just drugged enough to break that human/shark link, I imagine that the shark, having broken the mental/empathic link, would go nuts at being 'trapped' in a training pool, and be frantic to escape. (Perhaps the human, unaffected by the drug, can maintain the link, and feel the shark's pain, but be unable to sooth or control it?)

darkelf
02-23-2014, 08:25 AM
What if the dog that had rabies-like symptoms had eaten a diseased fish, and the shark-rabies is more like a combination of whatever the fish had been sick with and the dog rabies? I'm looking to increase the plausibility of rabies, or give the opportunity of something else, potentially more dangerous. (Was it the dog? Or the sick fish? How contagious is this?)

Just my thoughts.
darkelf

Lindy
02-23-2014, 10:31 AM
You've gotten some really great replies here! I just thought I'd stick my nose in and tell you what an intriguing concept you have, Queen of Swords. Something I'd definitely be interested in reading :)

Marian Perera
02-23-2014, 11:04 AM
Aside from the rabies, having that catchy, easily recognisable name, ihow committed are you to rabies as the cause? If trying to make rabies a non-mammalian disease is too much of a stretch, how about having the shark drugged?
That way to wouldn't have to explain why the other sharks weren't infected, and the disease itself wouldn't automatically kill the shark. I imagine giving a shark drugged bait wouldn't be hard.
Just drugged enough to break that human/shark link, I imagine that the shark, having broken the mental/empathic link, would go nuts at being 'trapped' in a training pool, and be frantic to escape. (Perhaps the human, unaffected by the drug, can maintain the link, and feel the shark's pain, but be unable to sooth or control it?)

That could happen, and you're right about the effect on the link. I do want the human bonded with that particular shark to realize there's something wrong, but be unable to fully connect with the shark.

Problem with a drug is, I can't see the results being stretched out over a long period of time, which would happen with a disease. With a drug, the shark would react more or less right away, and while that would certainly have consequences, I'm not quite sure how to stretch those out to a novel. I mean, imagine Cujo if the dog had eaten poison, rather than gotten rabies.

Plus, it would be less scary, IMO.

Also, a drug is a one-time thing. The terrorist who infects the shark would be risking her life - and maybe even getting killed - to take out one shark. It would be easier for her to just drop nets into the training pool, if all she wanted was to kill one shark. What she's really hoping will happen is that the Patient Zero will infect all the sharks and maybe kill a few of the humans as well, because she has good reason to hate this organization.

It's a stretch to make rabies a non-mammalian disease, true, but I think for the story's purposes it works better.

Marian Perera
02-23-2014, 11:10 AM
Also, common pitfall, when referring to fish, we don't say "symptoms", we say "clinical signs". This is because the animal can't tell you exactly what's wrong and what it's feeling so all you have to go on is what you can see for yourself.

Sorry if I got a little carried away here.

I'll need the organization's doctor to diagnose what's happened, so maybe he can make the signs/symptoms distinction when people use the wrong term. :)

No, you didn't get carried away at all. Thanks for the information about reduced respiratory efficiency as well - that will probably come in handy. And hope to see you around in the future, because I'll probably have more questions along these lines when I start writing the book.

Marian Perera
02-23-2014, 11:16 AM
You've gotten some really great replies here! I just thought I'd stick my nose in and tell you what an intriguing concept you have, Queen of Swords.

Thanks, Lindy! It's been so much fun writing about sharks in ways that keep them useful (beyond their normal function in the ecosystem, that is) but scary. Not Lassie with fins. The people who work with them are always aware that these are huge predators with instincts and needs of their own.

And yes, this forum is invaluable. Each time I come here with some problem, I know someone will be able to help. :)

ECathers
02-24-2014, 07:08 AM
Threads like this one are the reason I read the Story Research forum obsessively. Fascinating discussion.

Yep! Me too, it's my absolute favorite part of the forum.

ECathers
02-24-2014, 07:24 AM
That could happen, and you're right about the effect on the link. I do want the human bonded with that particular shark to realize there's something wrong, but be unable to fully connect with the shark.

Problem with a drug is, I can't see the results being stretched out over a long period of time, which would happen with a disease. With a drug, the shark would react more or less right away, and while that would certainly have consequences, I'm not quite sure how to stretch those out to a novel. I mean, imagine Cujo if the dog had eaten poison, rather than gotten rabies.

Plus, it would be less scary, IMO.

Also, a drug is a one-time thing. The terrorist who infects the shark would be risking her life - and maybe even getting killed - to take out one shark. It would be easier for her to just drop nets into the training pool, if all she wanted was to kill one shark. What she's really hoping will happen is that the Patient Zero will infect all the sharks and maybe kill a few of the humans as well, because she has good reason to hate this organization.

It's a stretch to make rabies a non-mammalian disease, true, but I think for the story's purposes it works better.

Besides all that, a drugged shark is ok, but a RABID shark is stuffed full of awesome.