Great ex­cite­ment at Sea Life as rare sharks breed

Bray People - - NEWS -

THERE has been great ex­cite­ment at Ire­land’s Sea Life Cen­tre of late where, in the year of the shark, two short tail nurse sharks have bred for the first time.

The eggs from the rare sharks, which are now fac­ing a dra­matic de­cline in the wild, can be seen grow­ing in their tank at the Bray fa­cil­ity and the pups are ex­pected to hatch to­wards the end of the year.

The fe­male shark was born at Sea Life in 2006 from a wild egg and is one of the first of the species to breed in cap­tiv­ity. The male shark was also born in 2006, in Ar­tis Zoo in Am­s­ter­dam, and came to Sea Life on loan in 2013 as part of a Euro­pean breed­ing pro­gramme. This shark is only found in three lo­ca­tions in the wild: off the coasts of Tan­za­nia and Kenya in East Africa and in the waters sur­round­ing Mada­gas­car.

Pat O’Suil­leab­hain, Di­rec­tor of Sea Life Bray, said it is a great achieve­ment to have these rare sharks breed suc­cess­fully in Bray through the breed­ing pro­gramme.

‘We be­came a part of this very in­ter­est­ing pro­gramme when Ar­tis Zoo in the Netherlands agreed to loan us the male shark. There is lit­tle known about their breed­ing habits so there is great ex­cite­ment through­out Europe as we wait for the pups to hatch,’ he said.

The shark has been placed on the ‘vul­ner­a­ble’ list by the In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture. Its de­cline has re­sulted from com­mer­cial over­fish­ing for food and, par­tic­u­larly, for its fins, which are re­garded as a del­i­cacy in Asia. It is also caught as a by­catch in the heav­ily-fished in­shore waters of East Africa and has suf­fered from the de­struc­tion of the coral reefs.

An in­shore bot­tom dwelling species, it has a unique feed­ing ap­pa­ra­tus with a small mouth but an en­larged phar­ynx that al­lows it to cre­ate a vac­uum and suck up its prey. It is a noc­tur­nal feeder, prey­ing on sea urchins, squid and oc­to­pus. It has a habit of reg­u­larly float­ing up­side down and can live for up to 33 years in cap­tiv­ity, be­com­ing ma­ture when it is 56 cm long.

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