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Scientists use sharks' dorsal fins to count population size

Scientists have recently used shark fins to estimate the great white shark population near California, finding that there are only 219 of these sharks left, according to Discovery News.

For great white sharks, their unique dorsal fin shape is the sharks' version of human fingerprints.

"Differences can be present in the general shape [i.e., triangular fin, rounded fin], but the most telling of the differences is along the trailing edge of the fin. Each fin has a unique arrangement of notches, cuts, and/or flat sections. We have found that these characteristics are conserved over very long periods of time," Taylor Chapple, a scientist at the University of California at Davis, told the news source.

Chapple and his team used pictures of shark dorsal fins to count the number of great white sharks estimated to live off of coastal central California.

The results, published in the Royal Society Biology Letters, come as a surprise and a warning to animal conservationists.

The great white shark is listed as endangered, according to National Geographic. While the news source reported that there is no "reliable data" concerning population size, more studies such as the one conducted by Chapple's team could give scientists a better estimate of the animals' current state. 
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