Fishing Lines: Sharks can really get up your nose
Sunday 27 November 2005
Life has not always been a bowl of gooseberries for Ms Westbrook, best known for her role as Sam Mitchell in EastEnders. Disciples of the tabloids will recall a horrific photograph showing the septum of her nose missing.
Allegedly it went walkies after she had inhaled large quantities of a white substance that was not sugar or talc. But she missed her septum. It was an old friend. What fun can it be, picking your nose when you have to use your whole hand rather than one finger?
Anyway, she went to see an expert on noses, who came up with a remarkable remedy. Instead of offering a fake septum to match her impressive fake breasts, he took the homeopathic route. Ms Westbrook sports a perfect nose now, grown from shark cells.
I'm a bit dodgy on the technical side, but it seems that shark cells were implanted into her skin, and this encouraged her own cells to reconstruct the missing part in the middle. An article I read claimed it was the first time in the world that such surgery using shark bits had been performed on a nose.
Bad news for sharks, of course. Soon everyone will want to boast shark links with some part of their anatomy. Some species are already endangered, especially those used for soup, where the fins are cut off and the rest of the fish, criminally, is dumped.
But you can see the benefits. Sharks are superb predators due to their keen sense of smell. Lemon sharks can detect one part of tuna extract in 25 million parts of seawater, research has shown. Blacktips and reef sharks can sniff out concentrations as low as one part in 10 billion. A great white can detect a single drop of blood in an Olympic-sized pool.
No wonder sharks were once considered merely giant swimming noses with teeth. But that's misleading. Sharks have six senses, rather than our sorry five. They also receive sensory input through electroreception, a sensitivity to electric fields.
As author of the legendary Catch More Sharks ("How did he get away with this rubbish?" - The Bookseller), I know all this useful technical information. Doesn't help me to catch more sharks, but it's great stuff for frightening small children at night. I am, however, unable to tell you which of the 360 or so species of shark generously donated its cells so Danniella could have more than one nostril.
I will ask my friend Neil Blincow, once of the National Enquirer, to monitor her behaviour. If she puts on lots of weight, it was surely a whale shark. If she slobs on the beach all day, I'd reckon a basking shark. If she exhibits signs of wanting to bite the postman, there are white pointer genes at work. If she starts drinking heavily, a six-gill may be to blame.
Whichever type is sharing her body, I suspect she will be eating a lot more meat. And she'll smell a lurking paparazzo a mile off.
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