Posts Tagged 'sandbar sharks'

Happy Maryland Day!

government affairs and policy update

Every year on March 25th the Old Line State celebrates the rich history of all things Maryland. Did you know? It was on this day in 1634 that colonists ventured up the Chesapeake Bay and arrived on Maryland soil!

Here at the National Aquarium we take pride in our Maryland roots. 70,000 Maryland schoolchildren, teaches and chaperones visit the Aquarium every year. Hundreds of National Aquarium staff and volunteers work tirelessly to restore the Chesapeake Bay. And the seals, sea turtles, and whales that get stranded off of Ocean City and other Maryland  beaches? National Aquarium resumes, rehabilitates and releases them back into the wild.

But the Aquarium’s Maryland pride does not stop there – we also have a strong representation of Maryland animals throughout our exhibits, both species native to our coast and ones that rely on the calm waters of the Chesapeake Bay to survive.

Everyone is quick to recognize Maryland favorites like blue crabs and terrapins, but here are some not-so-obvious animals that can be seen in Maryland waters: 

Lined Seahorse

This pale yellow seahorse has dark lines across its head and body that help it camouflage into Bay grasses.

lined seahorse

This species of seahorse can be found year-round in the middle and lower regions of the Chesapeake Bay, extending north to regions such as Calvert County and Kent Island. While usually found amidst the grasses in the Bay’s shallow waters, they can also be seen clinging to ropes and crab pots.

Sandbar Shark

Usually found along the North American Atlantic coast, these stocky brownish sharks can be seen in the shallows of the middle and lower regions of the Bay in Summer and Fall.

Sandbar shark

These Chesapeake Bay visitors are usually large schools of juveniles, usually ranging only about 2-3-feet in size, however, spotting an adult 7-foot sandbar shark in the Bay would not be unheard of. The Bay has become one of the most important sandbar shark nursery areas on the East Coast and young sharks often feed on native blue crabs. The sharks prefer the protected waters and stay near the smooth sandy bottoms of the Bay before heading back into the southern waters when the weather gets cooler.

Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Adult loggerheads are common in the lower Bay from May to November, but can also be seen as far north as Kent Island during summer months.

Loggerhead turtle

They come to feed on blue crabs and horse crabs and to hatch their young. The lower Bay is an important growth area for young loggerheads before they are large and strong enough to make it back into the open ocean.

Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin

Bottlenose dolphins visit the lower and middle Chesapeake Bay in the summers, usually to Cape Charles and the James and Elizabeth Rivers.

dolphin count

They can go into fresh water for short periods and feed on a variety of the Bay’s fish, crabs, and other shellfish. You can find them traveling in pods ranging anywhere from 2 to 15 dolphins, staying in the Bay and rivers for a summer vacation before heading back to the open water when the weather gets cooler.

Cownose Ray

With a wingspan of up to 3 feet, cownose rays can also be found traveling in schools in the shallow waters of the Chesapeake Bay during summer months.

national aquarium cownose ray

The schools traverse the lower and middle parts of the Bay, sometimes going as far north as Kent Island, from May to October, before heading back to southern coastal waters when autumn comes. They come to the Bay to search of oysters and clams and a safe place to mate in the late summer from June to July. The schools can be large and visible as they move through the Bay.

How are you celebrating Maryland Day? Tell us in the comments section! 

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An Update on Our Sandbark Shark Pup, Chloe!

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I’m happy to report that our sandbark shark pup Chloe is thriving in our Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit – where she has been since the end of June

national aquarium sandbar shark

Photo via Jeff Mauritzen.

In the last few months, Chloe has been enjoying a steady diet of mackerel, squid, shrimp, herring and capelin! The diet of each Aquarium resident is measured out (based on their weight) and fed carefully, to ensure that everyone is getting the right amount of nutrition. At the moment, Chloe is eating about .2 lbs of food at each meal!

Since her birth back in May, Chloe has grown to be about 10 lbs in weight and about 2.5 feet in length!

Do you have a question about Chloe, her species or just sharks in general? Ask me in the comments section! 

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Great White Shark Spotted Off New Jersey Coast

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Last week, reports surfaced that a 16-foot-long great white shark was spotted off the coast of New Jersey, near Atlantic City. While the sighting caused a good deal of commotion, great whites are actually spotted on occasion in our area.

great white shark

The great white spotted off the NJ coast. Photo: Rob Pompilio

Additionally, species like the smooth and spiny dogfish, sandbar sharks and sand tiger sharks are also found in our area. In the summer months, tiger, dusky, common threshers, shortfin makos and blue sharks will also frequent the deeper waters in our area.

It’s important to note that shark attacks are rare. Sharks are not the “man-eating machines” they are often perceived to be. In fact, species like the great white far prefer seals and other marine mammals as their choice meal. Shark incidents usually occur if the animal mistakes a human for prey.

To avoid any confusion with these animals, here are some important safety tips for beach-goers this summer: 

  • Don’t swim alone.
  • Don’t swim at dawn or dusk.
  • Avoid areas where seals live.
  • Don’t swim in areas where you see active bait (small fish) near shore.

In reality, sharks have more to fear from us than we do from them. Over 100 million sharks are killed by humans every year. Did you know great white sharks are a federally protected species? From bycatch (when animals are caught unintentionally) to shark finning (the practice of slicing off the fins of a live shark and then discarding the animal at sea), even the largest predatory fish on Earth is not immune to human-related threats.

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Sandbar Shark Pup Born at National Aquarium!

animal expert update

We have some exciting news coming from the National Aquarium fishes department – a female sandbar shark pup was recently born to the two adult sandbars in our Shark Alley: Atlantic Predators exhibit!

sandbar shark pup

This is the first pup our female sandbar has had since coming to the Aquarium in 2003!

After the birth was initially observed by staff, the pup was moved behind-the-scenes for immediate veterinary care and further observation.

Baby shark during transport to behind-the-scenes area.

Baby shark during transport to behind-the-scenes area.

Did you know the majority of shark species (including sandbars) give birth to live young?

Female sandbars are known to have a range of 1 to 14 pups throughout their lifetime. This species reaches sexual maturity at around 16 years of age (or later) and their average gestational period is about 12 months. Females also have what’s known as a “biennial reproductive cycle,” meaning they reproduce every other year.

At this time, our Animal Care and Animal Health teams are working closely to monitor the baby shark’s health and eating patterns. We hope to increase the pup’s overall intake in the next few weeks. Currently, the shark pup only weighs about 4.6 pounds and is only 26 inches in length! Adult sandbar sharks can weigh up to 200 pounds and reach up to 7.5 feet in length.

While the birth of this shark pup is very exciting, we are cautiously optimistic as shark pups have a low survival rate. Our priority is to give the animal the best care possible and consult with partner institutions that have successfully reproduced this species.

Stay tuned for more updates on our shark pup! 

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