Friday, September 07, 2007
One kind of animal I help take care of at the Aquarium are the zebra sharks Stegastoma fasciatum at Shark Lagoon. We currently have four of them there. Two are happily cruising in the large exhibit with the large sharks and rays. These two adult sharks have been dubbed Yin and Yang (Yang is the darker one and Yin is the lighter one). Two juveniles are in the small touch pool where they interact with guests. Wanna pet a zebra shark? They are very friendly.
Zebra sharks are one of the easier sharks to take care of because they are typically more relaxed than most sharks. This is because they are bottom dwelling sharks and do not need to keep swimming all the time. Many pelagic shark species, sharks that swim in the middle of the water column, are difficult to keep in an aquarium because they are more high strung and need a lot of room to swim in. How do we know when a shark is comfortable? You watch their body language or if you want to be really technical, count their tailbeat frequency. A nervous or otherwise upset fish will beat their tails much faster than normal. Whereas other sharks need to keep swimming, zebra sharks can just chill and that is why they thrive in aquariums. Usually, they don’t move their tails at all for hours on end.
Our zebra sharks eat like queens at the Aquarium. Queens because they are girls! Each meal is prepared everyday just the way they like it and fed to them with tender loving care. They are fed a combination of the freshest restaurant quality squid, clam, and fish. It takes about 2 hours every morning to prepare all the food for the Shark Lagoon animals. Unlike the other sharks, Yin and Yang are not that picky about what they eat. I usually give each of them a handful of headless sardines and whole squid without pens. Squid pens are the internal shells in the mantle of the squid that is left over from millions of years of evolution. They also like de-shelled clams and hoki fillets. Hoki, by the way, is a type of fish. Each shark is fed a specific weight of food depending on their size. The bigger they are, the larger the portions they get. The best part about feeding the zebra sharks is to see them slurp up their food like a vacuum which is totally unlike the way a pelagic shark eats. All zebra sharks at the Aquarium have been trained to come to the surface to get their food. Eventually, the little zebra sharks in the touch pools will have to move to a larger exhibit which will make it harder to feed them. Therefore in the coming months, it is imperative that we train them to come to us for food.
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