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Shark Attack!


Herbert House (rr)
Biology Department
Elon University


This case is based on the real-life incident of a boy whose arm was bitten off by a bull shark while swimming off the coast of Florida in the summer of 2001. After the boy’s arm was retrieved from the shark’s mouth, it was surgically reattached. The case was developed for use in the laboratory section of a freshman- or sophomore-level introductory human anatomy course that takes a regional approach.  Several similar clinical cases are used in conjunction with each anatomical region as it is dissected.  This particular case study is used during the dissection lab on the upper extremity of the human body.


  • Identify the bone, muscles, blood vessels, and nerves associated with a cross section of the arm.
  • Explain the action of the associated muscles, blood vessels, and nerves.
  • Identify any movements within the arm, forearm, wrist, and fingers that would be affected and explain how these movements might be altered after arm reattachment.
  • Define collateral circulation and identify the regions of collateral circulation found in the upper extremity.
  • Explain how collateral circulation might be helpful to restoring circulation to the severed bone.
  • Identify the location and specific vessels associated with collateral circulation in this area.
  • Identify specific types of activities that might cause the patient problems after recovery.
  • Explain the effects that age might have on the reattachment of an arm.


Upper arm; upper extremity; surgical reattachment; limb reattachment; collateral circulation; bull shark

Topical Areas


Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division



Type / Methods

Directed, Laboratory



Subject Headings

Anatomy  |   Medicine (General)  |  

Date Posted


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Jane Johnson-Murray
Houston Community College System
Houston, TX
This case reminded me of the "case" of a child here in Houston having his arm swatted off by a tiger. I rewrote the case using excerpts from newspaper articles published about the accident and the recovery of the child. These included interviews with the physicians involved in the implantation. I renamed the case "The Tiger and the Tot" and wrote it as an interrupted case. The students worked in groups for 15 minutes, then we discussed the case as a group.

I used some of the questions from the original case, but since I offer this earlier in the Anatomy and Physiology course than did the original author, some of the questions did not apply. Some of my students remembered this event and I think that helped stir interest.