Like the skull, the rest of the shark skeleton is also cartilage. The articulation of a full shark skeleton is an extremely difficult and laborious process, involving many hours of careful cleaning, using both surgical equipment and chemicals.
The drying process, after the whitening, is extremely difficult and the correct preparation of the skeleton is paramount. The use of balsa wood and clamps ensures the cartilage still remains in the correct position during drying. Tiger sharks have a skull that is rather unique due to its snout shape, which if not properly set with clamps, it will distort during drying and lose its shape.
As with other shark skeletons, the other problem areas also are the fins, as they are especially difficult to dry and for them to retain their shape without wrinkling. It is very important the fins are carefully prepared, ensuring a layer of skin is left around the perimeter of the fins themselves, so they will not be able to fray during the drying process.
The other area of concern, with all shark skulls are the eyes. Many people who prepare shark skulls and skeletons tend to remove the eyes and prepare them separately from the rest of the skull. This methodology works really well, however I have developed a technique whereby I leave the eyes attached to the optic nerve and the optic peduncle. This allows the eye to be set at the correct angle in the skull, as the optic peduncle will harden once dried out.
In most of the skulls I prepare, I leave about 6-7 vertebrae attached to the skull, whereby it can then be mounted on a base. This also needs to be immobilised during the drying process.
Shark skeletons can make a visually stunning piece to display, as most people only see either jaws or teeth. The preparation of such skeletons and skulls is very time consuming and an exact process, however essential for such pieces to be visually stunning.
A full skeleton will usually take up to 4-6 weeks to fully dry, and then a further 2 weeks to finish completely.
At Elasmo-Morph, we clean and prepare the skeletons of many types of Shark species including:
Tiger shark skeletons and skulls bring with them some difficulty, as the snout area is extremely complex, as it has very little calcification on the snout area itself. The nostrils are extremely large and are extremely easy to slice when removing the tissue from the snout area. In addition the skeleton of the Tiger shark is not particularly well calcified, and therefore have some very soft areas which can be easily cut and damaged when de-fleshing the head area.