UW News

July 17, 2019

Video: ‘Pickled’ sharks from the UW Burke Museum fish collection

UW News

The Burke Museum at the University of Washington has North America’s largest fish collection that houses a number of sharks, including many species that live in Pacific Northwest waters.

Katherine Maslenikov is the manager of the fish collection. She showed UW News some specimens of sharks, from preserved catfish and dogfish that are common in Puget Sound, to a baby sixgill shark, baby conjoined twin sharks, and the jaws of a great white shark caught on a fishing trip in Willapa Bay.

Maslenikov says the fluid you see in the jars is not formaldehyde. Specimens are passed through a formalin solution that fixes the tissues and preserves their lifelike condition; then they are stored in 70% ethyl alcohol. When opened, the metal tank housing the leopard shark, for example, smelled like raw fish and alcohol mixed together — a little like a sushi bar.

While the fish collection is maintained primarily for research, it’s also available for the public to tour. There are more than 11 million preserved fish specimens from around the world, but most come from the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea and from freshwater habitats of the Pacific Northwest.

For more information, contact:
Katherine Maslenikov, UW Fish Collection manager: pearsonk@uw.edu
Kiyomi Taguchi, UW News video producer: ktaguchi@uw.edu