Zebra shark born at The Deep

Published: Thursday 29th October 2015 by Rich Sutherland

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The Deep’s first baby zebra shark has hatched today weighing 67gms and measuring just 100mm, hatched from an egg laid by The Deep’s female zebra shark. A number of eggs have been developing behind the scenes for the last 6 months. She is the first baby to hatch out and the team at The Deep are hopeful that more will follow soon.

Aquarist Tom Rowe, who has been looking after the zebra shark pups, tells us more: “Sharks take many years to mature but we knew our female was ready to reproduce when she started laying empty ‘practice’ eggs. The eggs are quite large, around 12cm in length, after a while they started to contain yolks and we could see the embryos developing. It takes around six and s half months for them to fully develop before a shark pup emerges.”

Just like humans, sometimes the juvenile passes its expected ‘due’ or ‘hatch’ date, and to ensure the pup is safe and doesn’t run out of food The Deep helps them to hatch by opening up the egg case. Newly hatched zebra shark pups are black in colour with white stripes, hence their name. As they grow, their pattern and colour changes, leaving the adults with a yellow and brown leopard print pattern.

“It is really important that we take meticulous care of the new-born pups. After each shark hatches we make a note of its weight and give it a full health check to ensure it is well developed. We continue to monitor feeding and growth from then on.”

Zebra sharks are classed as vulnerable in the wild by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and threatened by habitat loss, bycatch and collection for shark fin soup. Aquarium breeding programmes have become even more essential for safeguarding the future of these animals. The Deep has been involved with the EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquariums) breeding programme for this species for a number of years. Previous pups hatched and reared at The Deep were from eggs from Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. These three males are all doing well and there are plans to introduce the one-year-olds into the Lagoon of Light in the near future.

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Published: Thursday 29th October 2015 by Rich Sutherland

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