Monday, November 20, 2017
Even though the sand tiger shark looks ferocious, he’s one of the most docile animals in Shark Lagoon. Aquarist Rachel Munson shares why she loves taking care of this animal.
Visitors love to admire our sand tiger shark, with his gray body, white underbelly, and rows upon rows of pointed teeth.
Lovingly known as “Big Guy,” our sand tiger shark is 8 feet long and weighs about 172 pounds. He has a sweet demeanor and relaxed personality. He’s also one of my favorite sharks in Shark Lagoon here at the Aquarium of the Pacific.
When we do our shark feed each afternoon, all the other sharks in the exhibit get excited and start zipping around searching for food. However, our sand tiger shark always cruises around at the same speed. This is because he’s an ambush predator that prefers to capture his prey with stealth and strategy, rather than strength or speed.
Due to the shark’s calm demeanor, it’s not always obvious when he’s ready to eat, so we have to look for subtle signs. For example, he often swims a little higher in the water when he’s ready to eat. You can also tell he’s hungry when you see the whites of his eyes, because he looks up to the surface when he’s searching for his favorite foods.
Our veterinarian, Dr. Lance Adams, performs a routine check-up on the sand tiger shark once a year. To prep him for the exam, we guide the shark into a small pool at the back of the exhibit so that he’s separated from the other animals. Then, I work with a team of fellow aquarists to get him into a sling-like apparatus that helps stabilize him while the vet team takes measurements and draws blood.
When I first started working with Big Guy, I was a little apprehensive. The media portrays sharks as fierce predators. And I’ll fully admit that those rows of teeth are pretty intimidating!
However, the more I work with our sand tiger shark the more I realize that these sharks are sweet, docile animals that are terribly misunderstood. The next time you see sharks on TV portrayed as man-eating machines, I hope you’ll stop and think about Big Guy, our loveable giant in Shark Lagoon.
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