Published August 28, 2013
Aquatic Life , National Aquarium , Sharks
Tags: blacktip reef, blacktip reef sharks, grand prix, grand prix of baltimore, holly bourbon, national aquarium, national aquarium experts, national aquarium in baltimore, shark biology, shark facts, shark speed, Sharks
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!
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!
The new school year has just begun, and this first-grade class has already done something amazing: they raised the money to adopt a shark from the Aquarium!
From Mrs. Detter, the teacher:
“While reading a book about endangered animals, the children expressed their interest in adopting an animal from a nearby zoo or aquarium. After many voting sessions, the children decided to adopt a shark from the National Aquarium. To make this possible, we need to raise $50.”
This is how we are tracking our progress.
It didn’t take these dedicated first-graders long to raise the money needed to submit their adoption papers.
WE DID IT!!!
Congratulations, Mrs. Detter’s class! You should be receiving your Aquadopt package before long. We hope you come visit “your” adopted shark sometime soon! All the information you need for planning a great field trip is at aqua.org/teachers. In the meantime, here are some fun shark facts for you:
- Baby sharks are called pups.
- The sand tiger shark adjusts its buoyancy by burping—gulping and expelling air at the surface. This allows the shark to hover nearly motionless in the water.
- The largest fish in the world is the whale shark, which can grow up to 41 feet long. And whale sharks have no teeth!
- Sharks have no bones at all. Their skeletons are made of cartilage. Feel your ears and the end of your nose. Notice how they’re kind of squishy, not bony? That’s cartilage!
- Any of you have a loose tooth? A shark may lose up to 1,000 teeth a year, or 30,000 teeth in a lifetime! Shark teeth are constantly replaced as they wear or break. The inside of a shark’s jaw has five to 15 rows of teeth that usually lie flat until the tooth in front of it falls out. When a tooth is lost, another rotates forward to replace it, usually within 24 to 48 hours. The process of tooth replacement in sharks is very similar to the movement of a conveyor belt or the steps on an escalator.
Look at those rows of teeth!
- The skin of a shark is covered in tiny scales or skin teeth called dermal denticles. These skin teeth point toward a shark’s tail, so a shark feels smooth if touched from head to tail but feels like sandpaper if felt from tail to head.
- There are approximately 400 species of sharks in the world. At the National Aquarium, we have eight different species, including bonnethead sharks, nurse sharks, zebra sharks, sawtooth sharks, and sand tiger sharks.