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Getting Smart(er) About Sharks

Getting Smart(er) About Sharks
New sand tiger breeding facility could produce data that impacts this iconic shark species

November 21, 2016

Written by Paige Hale, Public Relations Specialist 

Next time you visit Marineland Dolphin Adventure, you may notice a few new residents in Neptune Park. Additional sand tiger sharks (Carcharia taurus) have joined Marineland from Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium and Ripley’s Aquariums. So why are these sand tiger sharks at Marineland Dolphin Adventure, exactly?

Partnering Up for Shark Preservation

  • Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium and Ripley’s Aquariums are partners in this exciting new research endeavor to find out more about how this iconic shark species reproduces and how to breed them in an aquarium setting.
  • In partnership with the Southeast Zoo Alliance for Reproduction and Conservation (SEZARC), new techniques will be used to monitor the reproductive status of sharks.
  • Georgia Aquarium and its partners are part of the solution to shark population decline by reducing takes from the ocean by attempting to breed sharks at this facility.
  • Sand tiger sharks are part of the Association of Zoo and Aquarium’s Species Survival Plan (SSP). This program works with member facilities to oversee the population management of select species and to collaborate on conservation of these species in the wild.

Ripley’s Aquarium veterinarian Dr. Robert George performs an ultrasound on a sand tiger shark that has just arrived at Marineland Dolphin Adventure.

Gathering Data

  • Georgia Aquarium, Marineland Dolphin Adventure, and SEZARC team members perform routine handlings of the sharks to better understand chemical markers in biological samples that could lead to successful reproduction in these sharks.
  • These biological samples are collected for further testing. These samples could provide larger insights to the way these sharks reproduce.
  • These sharks serve as ambassadors for their species, teaching guests about the challenges they face in the ocean and inspiring them to conserve this beautiful species.

Location, Location, Location!

  • The Neptune Park area of Marineland was identified as a location for these sharks and this progressive research because it offers important natural features. This includes:
    • Availability of natural sea water that is filtered through the facility’s life support systems.
    • Natural photoperiods that occur with an outdoor habitat; these periods have been regarded as an important environmental cue that enable sharks to breed.
    • The large outdoor pools are ideal for a group of adult sand tiger sharks, and guests are able to see them on display.

Chris Coco, senior director of fish and invertebrates and Chris Schreiber, director of fish and invertebrates, both look on as two sand tiger sharks Sand Tiger Arrival pass each other following arrival at Marineland Dolphin Adventure.

Sand tiger sharks are a very recognizable species. They are hard to miss with their mouthful of sharp teeth protruding in all directions – even when they close their mouths! To some, this characteristic may sound terrifying or threatening, but these sharks are docile and non-aggressive. In addition to having one of the lowest reproduction rates of all shark species, some of their other traits include:

  • They can range in length from 6 feet to over 10 feet
  • This species of shark can weigh up to 400 pounds!
  • Currently listed as “Vulnerable” on the International Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List
  • Sand tiger sharks’ population decline was brought on by more than 40 years of overfishing, habitat loss, and by-catch.
  • Female sand tiger sharks give birth every two years to one or two pups with a gestation period of 9-12 months – but it’s not that easy; a dominant embryo will eat the less developed embryos and eggs. The result is one of the largest pups at birth among all sharks.
  • They feast on bony fishes, smaller sharks, rays, squid, crabs, and lobsters.
  • The only species of shark that swims to the surface and swallows air in order to regulate its buoyancy – this way they can virtually remain motionless at any depth while they seek out prey!

Marineland Dolphin Adventure now has one of the largest populations of sand tiger sharks anywhere in the U.S., which provides guests with the opportunity to get up close and see this remarkable shark species and understand the challenges they face. By learning about all shark species, we can take appropriate steps to help our ocean and shark populations across the globe.

See additional photos from their arrival here: 

These sand tiger sharks are in the Neptune Park area of Marineland Dolphin Adventure and is open to guests.

To learn more about Marineland, plan your trip or purchase tickets, visit here. Follow along with Marineland’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates.

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