Posts Tagged 'Sharks'



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! 

Meet the New Neighbors! Blacktip Reef Sharks Added to Exhibit!

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Twelve blacktip reef sharks were introduced to their new home today!

The transportation and introduction process for these animals is carefully crafted by our Biological Programs team. Each shark is individually introduced by a team of divers into Blacktip Reef. After they feel that the newly introduced shark has begun acclimating to its new surroundings, the next shark is added. The process of introducing all 20 of our blacktip reef sharks will occur over two days.

Blacktips can grow to about 6 feet in length and bear distinctive black tips on their fins. Found in the shallow waters of the Indo-Pacific, these sharks are sleek, beautiful and fast-moving and hunt cooperatively in groups.

These sharks are joining our 500-pound green sea turtle, Calypso, and hundreds of tropical fish recently introduced into the exhibit. Over the next few weeks, many other fascinating species – including zebra sharks, wobbegong sharks, a blotched fantail ray, a reticulate whipray and a Napoleon wrasse – will be introduced to Blacktip Reef! Some of these amazing animals were recently featured in this CBS This Morning piece!

Stay tuned for more updates as Blacktip Reef continues to come to life! 

A Blue View: The Unfair Attack on Sharks

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

July 10, 2013: Sharks Unfairly Attacked

A Blue View podcast

Click here to listen to John discuss the bad
reputation sharks have gotten over the years. 

Sharks have long captured the imagination of the public. These days, even shark sightings make national news. Just this past June, great white shark sightings in Massachusetts and New Jersey cleared beaches and were widely reported across the country.

Often thought of as mindless, aggressive killers, sharks—and their toothy jaws—are featured prominently in movies and TV shows, always adding drama with a hint of fin visible above the water’s surface. Despite the fascination that we all feel for sharks, these important apex predators remain seriously misunderstood.

Most people think of great whites when they think of sharks, but there are actually more than 375 shark species, ranging in size from the 8-inch dwarf lantern shark to the 65-foot whale shark.

Here are just a few shark species that can be found at the Aquarium:

The vast majority of sharks are carnivores, but exactly what they eat depends on what they can catch. Larger shark species may prefer seals or large fish. Other species may opt for mollusks, clams, squid, and other small marine animals. One thing is certain—humans are not the preferred menu choice—far from it.

Of the hundreds of shark species, only 12 are considered even potentially dangerous to people, with great whites, bull sharks, and tiger sharks responsible for most attacks on humans. In 2012, approximately 80 shark attacks occurred worldwide, with seven fatalities. When one considers how fearful the general public is of sharks, it’s remarkable to learn that as many as 100 million sharks are killed by people each year. The fact is, sharks have far more to fear from humans.

While sharks may be at the top of the food chain, they are susceptible to threats such as shark finning, overfishing and bycatch. As top predators, most shark species produce relatively few offspring and take years to reach reproductive maturity. The whale shark, for example, doesn’t reproduce until the age 30. When killed in great numbers, sharks don’t have the opportunity to reproduce, and the long-term viability of the population is threatened.

So why should we worry about sharks? Let’s start with the fact that they’re absolutely critical to healthy ocean ecosystems. Scientists refer to sharks as a keystone species, meaning that the whole complex food web relies on them. From their perch at its top, sharks keep populations of other fish in check, naturally select out old and sick fish, and control populations so that other prey fish can’t cause an imbalance in the ecosystem. By doing the essential job of population control, sharks actually ensure adequate biodiversity in marine habitats.

Besides regulating the food web, sharks are believed to keep coral reefs, sea grass beds, and other vital habitats healthy. Essentially, sharks regulate the behavior of other species by intimidating them, preventing any one species from over-consuming critical habitat.

Because of the severe population decline of many shark species, several states, Maryland included, have taken steps to protect sharks by prohibiting the sale, trade, and transfer of shark fins, and many conservation organizations are advocating for even greater protection of these ocean-dwellers.

This summer, if you’re fortunate enough to spent time at the ocean, don’t let fear of sharks prevent you from enjoying the water. Be sensible, but not afraid. As you’ve no doubt heard, you face much greater risk driving to the shore than you do from the sharks that live there!

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Animal Updates – June 28

Between our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues, more than 17,500 animals representing 900 species call the National Aquarium home. There are constant changes, additions and more going on behind the scenes that our guests may not notice during their visit. We want to share these fun updates with our community, so we’re bringing them to you in our weekly Animal Update posts!

Check our blog every Friday to find out what’s going on… here’s what’s new this week!

Sandbar pup is on exhibit! 

Chloe, a female sandbar shark pup born at the Aquarium just over a month ago, has been moved into our Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit.

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Chloe behind-the-scenes shortly after her birth.

This species of shark gets its name from their preferred habitat, the sandbars and grassy shallow areas along the Atlantic coast.

Did you know? The Chesapeake Bay is actually one of the most important nursery areas along the East Coast for sandbar sharks!

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!


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