From the Telegraph: What lurks beneath: plastinated veins of blue shark to feature in new exhibition
As if one pickled shark was not enough, now there are two,
The preserved sharks are to go on show in rival exhibitions in London next week – and although one is the well-known work of Damien Hirst, it is likely to be the work of German anatomist Gunther von Hagens which proves even more fascinating.
Stripped of its rough skin, muscle and cartilage, the intricate network of blood vessels that help to make the blue shark one of the most efficient killers in the ocean have been revealed in a sight seen only by a handful of anatomists.
Now preserved using a revolutionary technique developed by Dr von Hagens, the one metre long blue shark, caught off the coast of Australia, is to go on display as part of a new exhibition that will allow visitors to get beneath the skin of more than 80 animals.
By carefully replacing soft tissue with plastic and silicon in a process known as plastination, Dr von Hagens and his team have been able to preserve the internal organs, muscles, and vascular systems of animals including snails, rabbits, ostriches, giraffes, sharks and even an elephant.
They are now to go on display in the UK for the first time at the Natural History Museum in London on April 6, where the blood vessel cast of the blue shark is expected to be a highlight.
The exhibition will open as another shark – Damien Hirst's infamous tiger shark, which is preserved in a more traditional way using formaldehyde solution – goes on display at the Tate Modern as part of a retrospective of the artist's career.
Dr Angelina Whalley, Dr von Hagen's wife and director of the Institute for Plastination in Heidelberg where the work was carried out, said scientists had to develop new techniques to inject red polymers into the fine network of blood vessels of a shark for the first time.
She said: "The shark is one of my favourites as it looks so striking. It is very special as the arteries in fish are so thin it is difficult to apply this technology, so this is the first time the preservation of blood vessels have been done in a fish like this.
"Most people have a picture of a shark as a dangerous beast, but when you look at this specimen you see it has a heart and blood vessels just like me.
"It is fascinating how people change their view of the animals when they look at the specimens we have prepared."
The blue shark took nearly four months to complete as Dr von Hagens' and his team adapted the process he used to preserve human carcases for his controversial Body World exhibits.
They injected several litres of red polymer into the arteries until it filled the fine network of blood vessels that criss-cross the shark's body, before the other tissue is removed using enzymes and acids.
It reveals the mass of tiny capillaries that carry blood close to the skin allow the blue shark to absorb as much heat as possible from the surrounding water, allowing the animal to warm up its muscles enough to hunt.
Hirst's shark, titled The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, was first shown in 1992 after Charles Saatchi commissioned the piece for £50,000.
Weighing more than 22 tonnes, it has taken six technicians seven full days to install for the retrospective exhibition, which will feature many of the artist's other famous pieces including A Thousand Years, in which flies and maggots feed on a cow's rotting head.
There are far more animals on show at the Natural History Museum however.
The exhibition, Animals Inside Out, also features a four ton elephant named Samba, which was donated to Dr von Hagens' team after she died at the age of 41 in Neukirchen Zoo.
It took a team of 30 people over three years to preserve the 13ft tall Asian elephant and special flooring had to be put into the museum to support it.
Other animals to feature will include an ostrich with the muscles of its powerful legs and neck exposed, a feeding giraffe, a charging bull, a galloping reindeer and a rabbit that has also had its entire body stripped away to reveal its heart and blood vessels.
The exhibition also includes wafer thin cross-section slices of a crocodile and an elephant’s leg.
Plastination involves replacing all of the water in a body by placing the animal carcass in a bath of solvent before being immersed in a liquid polymer. This is then placed into a vacuum which sucks the acetone out of the tissue and the polymer replaces it.
The scientists can then position the animal while the plastic is still malleable before it is cured using light or heat to harden the plastic.
Richard Sabin, collections manager in the zoology department at the Natural History Museum, said: "What is incredible about this technique is that it allows to you see really very large animals preserved in a way they never have been before.
"Traditionally specimens are stored in vats of alcohol so for a large animal like an elephant, it would need a very large and extremely heavy vat.
"These specimens allow us to see something that only a very select group of people like veterinary surgeons and anatomical scientists have seen in the past – the soft tissues and organs of animals as they would be inside a living animal."