Friday Reads: The Sea-Section Edition

Love bite brings baby sharks into the world

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Imagine you’re a prospective new mum, walking down the street, minding your own business. Maybe you’re thinking about which hospital you should deliver your little ones at. Or perhaps which nursery school to enroll them in. When all of a sudden, a fellow pedestrian suddenly decides to help said little ones out of your womb—with their teeth!

Such was an unusual afternoon this week at Auckland’s Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World for one school shark (Galeorhinus galeus), who was bit by a Broadnose Sevengill shark. Or, as Kelly Tarlton’s curator Andrew Christie put it, "took some of its normal seasonal aggression out on her."

Unbeknownst to the aquarium staff, the school shark was pregnant, and the situation quickly went from horrifying to bizarre for stunned spectators, as four shark pups gleefully slipped out through the sizeable gash in their mother’s side and into the wide world of the aquarium tank.

According to The New Zealand Herald:

Kelly Tarlton’s aquarist Fiona Davies said it was common for sharks to take chunks out of each other, even in the wild, but she had never heard of anything like this.

"It had to bite a certain part to let them out and do it without killing them [the babies] or her [the mother]."

Davies went on to explain that had the unconventional c-section not occurred at that time, the baby sharks would likely have been born at night—and would quickly have become delectable midnight snacks for the other sharks and stingrays.

Staff quickly scooped up the four newborns and their mother—and promptly found four additional pups patiently waiting inside mum. In this happy ending, the mother has been treated and is reportedly recovering well. Her eight children will eventually be released into the wild.

Perhaps we’ll hear next week that the Broadnose Sevengill shark, who started all this excitement, will have performed triple bypass heart surgery on a Short-Tailed stingray. In the meantime, if all this marine talk has you interested in what Earthjustice is doing in the waters, read on about the our fight to save the right whales, and to protect sea turtles from longliners.

More Reads:
Leaves aren’t the brightest bulbs in the world. Come fall, the tree has to make an executive decision: Why Leaves Really Fall Off Trees, NPR: Krulwich on Science
The wrong exhibit to jump into: At the zoo, no escape for a deer in the lions’ den, Washington Post
Penguin photographers: Watch the birdie!, Daily Mail
Happy 40th Birthday, Sesame Street: Sesame Street’s Top 10 Environmental Videos, Treehugger

Shirley undertakes sous chef duties on Earthjustice’s website, serving up interactive online features for our advocacy campaign and litigation work.