Readers consider medical privacy, where sharks rank in food webs

Patient privacy

People with chronic conditions are taking medical research into their own hands, Betsy Ladyzhets reported in “Patient as scientist” (SN: 3/23/24, p. 22).

Connor, a patient highlighted in the story, asked to be identified by only his first name. But the story prints the full name of his spouse. “How exactly does that maintain [Connor’s] medical privacy?” reader Tom Begich asked.

Connor’s spouse, Nicole Bruno, agreed to print her last name because it differs from Connor’s, Ladyzhets says. As part of Science News’ fact-checking process, Ladyzhets also confirmed other details with the couple before publication.

Actually apex?

Shark bites are quite rare, Brianna Randall reported in “Sharks bit fewer than 100 people in 2023” (SN: 3/23/24, p. 4).

Randall wrote that sharks are the ocean’s apex predators, animals at the top of a food web, whose population isn’t regulated by other predators. Reader Bruce Bailey wondered if that’s true, given that orcas sometimes prey on great whites.

Many sharks rank in the middle of a food web, but most sharks that bite humans, including great whites, are apex predators, says population geneticist Gavin Naylor of the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville. And while orcas can kill or temporarily displace a great white, the whales don’t control the sharks’ population, says shark biologist Neil Hammerschlag of Atlantic Shark Expeditions in Boutiliers Point, Canada.