Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, July 29, 2022

Aquarium hatches endangered short-tail nurse sharks

Newly hatched short-tail nurse shark pups at the Tennessee Aquarium. - Photograph provided

The Tennessee Aquarium reached a milestone just in time for Shark Week with the recent hatching of three critically endangered short-tail nurse shark pups.

The diminutive youngsters, who hatched July 7, are the product of three adult short-tail nurse sharks – one male and two females – that arrived at the Aquarium along with eight juveniles and eight fertilized eggs from a facility in Canada last year.

Those fertilized eggs hatched in 2021, but these are the first pups produced from eggs laid by the breeding trio since their arrival at the aquarium. Short-tail nurse shark eggs develop for approximately 165 days before hatching.

One more egg remains to be hatched from this group.

Few facilities have populations of short-tail nurse sharks. There are currently 20 short-tail nurse sharks at the Aquarium – a population that accounts for half of the 40 individuals housed at zoological institutions worldwide.

Breeding these sharks will allow the aquarium to exhibit this rare and endangered shark without impacting wild populations.

The program will eventually help supply other Association of Zoos and Aquariums facilities with their own short-tail nurse sharks.

The lessons the aquarium’s staff learns during the care and reproduction will also aid other institutions with their breeding programs, says senior aquarist Kyle McPheeters, who’s responsible for the aquarium’s shark breeding program.

“This is an example of how we’re able to not only display animals to educate the public but also further the science behind the animals we display.”

Short-tail nurse sharks are found in the tropical waters of the western Indian Ocean, especially around the island of Madagascar off Africa’s eastern coast.

The sharks grow to just under 3 feet in length and have been known to live as long as 30 years in human care. Their diets consist primarily of fish and crustaceans and they’re adept hunters despite their small size.

The Tennessee Aquarium’s adult short-tail nurse sharks will eventually find a home swimming alongside other small sharks like coral catsharks and epaulet sharks in the facility’s stingray bay touch exhibit, where they’ll be neighbors with other native Madagascar species like ring-tailed and red-ruffed lemurs.

For now, they reside in an off-exhibit area suited for breeding purposes.

Source: Tennessee Aquarium