Archive for the 'Sharks' Category



Blacktip Reef Update: Wobbegong Sharks Now On Exhibit!

blacktip reef update national aquarium

Three wobbegong sharks were introduced to Blacktip Reef yesterday!

Blacktip Reef is now be home to one tasseled wobbegong and two ornate wobbegongs – two very beautiful and interesting shark species! They join 20 blacktip reef sharks and our two zebra sharks, Zeke and Zoe.

Wobbegongs, also known as carpet sharks, get their name from an Australian Aboriginal word meaning “shaggy beard” – which refers to the growths around the shark’s mouth. These sharks can be found in the shallow, warmer waters of the Indo-Pacific.

wobbegong shark

Their bold, brown patterns keep the wobbegong well-camouflaged within the reef. Their ability to camouflage makes these animals great ambush predators!

Stay tuned for more updates as Blacktip Reef continues to evolve!

New ‘Walking’ Shark Species Discovered in Indonesia!

A new species of epaulette (carpet) shark was recently discovered off the coast of an island in Indonesia!

New species of epaulette shark. Photo via Conservation International.

New species of epaulette shark. Photo via Conservation International.

The walking shark, Hemiscyllium halamhera, was first seen walking along the sea floor by divers in 2008. Only recently has it been officially recognized as a new species.

This is the third walking shark species found in Indonesia in the past six years! Walking sharks use their fins to navigate along the sea floor in search of small fish and crustaceans. Watch a walking shark do its thing: 

Although new species are discovered almost daily, this finding has given the conservation community new hope for the future of Indonesia’s elasmobranchs (sharks and rays). The local government and emerging dive tourism industry are excited by this discovery and have taken precautions to protect these sharks!

There are nine known species of walking shark in the world, all of which inhabit the shallow waters of very restricted ranges.

Got a question about this new discovery for our experts? Ask them in the comments section! 

Thoughtful Thursday: 2013 Shark Tagging Re-cap

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Every August, the National Aquarium invites our members and the general public to join us on shark research trips We work with Captain Mark Sampson to collect data from several species of sharks off of our Maryland coastline for a variety of ongoing research projects. Trip participants actively engage in catching the sharks, reeling them in, measuring them once on the boat, and tagging and releasing them. It’s a once-in-a lifetime experience that provides valuable species and population data for several researchers around the country and exciting educational experiences for participants.

Captain Sampson works with several researchers to study the migratory patterns, growth rates, population data and species data of the sharks he catches. Every shark that is brought on board is measured and its sex determined. The data and location is noted and a small piece of dorsal fin is clipped and preserved for DNA analysis. Each shark is also given in injection of oxytetracycline, an antibiotic that stains the vertebrae and provides a baseline for growth data if the shark is ever recaptured. Finally, if the shark is big enough, it is tagged.

This tagging is part of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Cooperative Shark Tagging Program. This program, started in 1962 was developed to provide information on the life histories and migratory patterns of Atlantic sharks. According to NMFS, between 1962-2010, over 221,000 sharks of 52 species have been tagged and more than 13,000 sharks of 33 species have been recaptured. Distances traveled for the 33 species ranged from no movement to 3,997 nautical miles (nm) (blue shark). The longest time at liberty for any shark in the program is 27.8 years (sandbar shark).

Our team took eight trips with Captain Sampson in August and caught 48 sharks total! The species tagged included sandbar, dusky, spinner, Atlantic sharpnose and smooth dogfish.

It’s obvious to anyone that steps aboard his vessel that Captain Sampson has a great respect for these animals and is passionate about conserving shark populations through research and education! If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, check back with us next Spring for our 2014 shark tagging trip dates.

In the meantime, there are several things you can do right now to protect the sharks off our coast and worldwide. Please make sure you are choosing seafood that caught without harming sharks and do your part to help keep our oceans clean.

Hope to see you on the boat next August!

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Blacktip Reef Sharks: Built for Speed

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As some of the newest residents here at the Aquarium, our 20 blacktip reef sharks have become a topic of fascination for both our guests and our staff.

To gear you up for the Grand Prix of Baltimore this week, we’re taking a closer look at how these sharks and our other fast fish friends are built for maximum speed!

blacktip reef shark

The bulk of a shark’s speed comes from the caudal (tail) fin, which provides it initial thrust by swaying back and forth, pushing water and propelling the shark forward.

The pectoral (side) fins provided the lift need for the shark to continue moving at a steady pace and counter gravity.

Finally, the blacktip reef shark’s iconically-tipped fin helps the animal steer itself. Together with the pectoral fins, it also help provide the animal stability!

In addition to its physical build, the skin of a shark helps streamline the animal’s movement and augment it’s speed through the water! Dermal denticles, backward facing, tiny tooth-like scales that cover a shark’s body, actually help them swim faster and more efficiently by reducing water resistance.

Watch our blacktip reef sharks in-action on our live Shark Cam

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Shark Week!

This week, our partners over at Discovery Channel are celebrating the 26th anniversary of Shark Week – a seven day program series dedicated to raising awareness and respect for these amazing animals.

Blacktip Reef

Sharks have been roaming our oceans for more than 420 million years and scientists have now identified close to 500 different species of sharks ranging in size from the dwarf lanternshark (only about 6 inches in length) to the whale shark (the largest fish in the world)!

Here at the Aquarium, we’re celebrating sharks all week long with programming available both on-site and online, including:

  • Google+ Hangout - We helped Discovery Channel kick off Shark Week with an underwater hangout featuring experts Holly Bourbon and Heather Doggett AND our brand new Blacktip Reef exhibit!  Four shark enthusiasts, including YouTube star iJustine, were also invited to participate in the hangout. Holly answered their questions and questions submitted from Facebook, Twitter and Google+ fans!
  • Dive Chats - At 12pm EST on August 8th, Holly will be doing another live underwater chat with our Shark Cam viewers! She’ll be answering questions submitted via Twitter using #sharkcam.
  • Shark Cam - Take a 24-7 dive into Blacktip Reef from anywhere in the world via our Shark Cam!
  • Education Talks from Blacktip Reef - Aquarium visitors will learn about Blacktip Reef, the sharks that live there, including the addition of a new species, the zebra shark!

How are you celebrating Shark Week? Tell us in the comments section! 


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