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Big Guy - The Laid Back Sand Tiger Shark

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Animal Updates | Sharks | Volunteering

Thursday, October 27, 2011


He’s one of the original inhabitants of Shark Lagoon. He looks big, bad and mean. But the aquarists at the Aquarium of the Pacific know his deep down secret. He’s more Sherman from the comic strip Sherman’s Lagoon than Jaws from the movie Jaws.

His name is Big Guy. He’s a sand tiger shark that lives in Shark Lagoon at the Aquarium of the Pacific. He’s the biggest shark in the the exhibit. Lesser sharks get out of his way when he patrols his turf in a slow, almost menacing loop around the shark tank. Visitors gasp when he glides close along the viewing window. His many sharp, protruding teeth looking quite deadly while only inches away from wide-eyed guests whose only protection is a thin layer of glass. Yet this dangerous look is only a facade. He’s actually a laid back shark enjoying his lofty status in the lagoon.

According to the aquarists who take care of the sharks at the Aquarium, sand tigers can be quite bold and aggressive especially toward other sharks. However they discovered long ago that Big Guy is the exception. They say that he is the most easy going, live and let live attitude sand tiger shark they’ve ever worked with. He’s content to simply lazily swim around the exhibit letting people gaze upon him He doesn’t go out of his way to intimidate other sharks, or divers in the exhibit.

He reminds me of the great white shark featured in the comic strip Sherman’s Lagoon. A shark content to live an uncomplicated, unhurried life as the biggest, baddest and meanest inhabitant of his fictional lagoon. But like Big Guy, it’s also a façade. Sherman the comic strip shark would rather avoid conflict and at time is clueless about his interactions with others. Big Guy also tends to avoid conflict by letting his large size intimidate the reef sharks and rays in the exhibit to stay away. At times he can also be a little clueless. I’ve watched a video of him trying to swim past a diver cleaning the exhibit by taking the path closest to the wall even though there wasn’t enough room. When he discovers the lack of space he stops and then backs up into a 45 degree angle, tilts his head forward and has an almost confused “oops!” expression on his face that reminded me instantly of Sherman’s Lagoon’s own big guy.

The aquarists do have to keep an eye on him when they’re diving in Shark Lagoon. Though not very aggressive, he still a big shark with big teeth that is used to smaller sharks getting out of his way when he approaches. There is still the potential for danger and the human visitors to his watery realm have to respect that. But despite all that he is still considered the most lovable shark in Shark Lagoon by the aquarists.

Big Guy - The Laid Back Sand Tiger Shark
Big Guy's large size intimidates the smaller sharks in the exhibit allowing him to live a care free life in Shark Lagoon.  | Hugh Ryono
Big Guy - The Laid Back Sand Tiger Shark
A close up of the teeth that make sand tiger sharks look so menacing.  | Hugh Ryono

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