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On the morning of May 27, animal care staff were greeted with an exciting discovery in Shark Alley: five sandbar shark pups! The pups—three males and two females—are currently residing in the behind-the-scenes acclimation pool of Shark Alley while they continue to grow and get strong.
Currently, the pups are about 2 feet in length; as adults, they can grow to lengths of 8 feet. They're being fed a diet consisting of shrimp, squid and mackerel. The pups will undergo a full veterinary exam before heading over to our Animal Care and Rescue Center in a few weeks, where they'll receive continued care by ACRC staff until they're ready to be transported to other peer institutions.
This isn't the first time we've had sandbar shark pups in the building; in 2013, we had another successful birth of one pup.
Sandbar sharks, like many other shark species, give birth to live young, and their gestation period ranges from six to 12 months. These elasmobranchs are named for the sandy flats, bays and estuaries where they're commonly found, including the Chesapeake Bay. They're the most common type of shark found in our local estuary; in fact, the Chesapeake and Delaware bays are two of the most important nursery grounds for sandbar sharks in the western North Atlantic Ocean.
Female sandbars mature at age 16 or older; this late sexual maturity, coupled with their slow growth and small number of offspring, makes this species very sensitive to overfishing and habitat degradation. They're currently listed as a vulnerable species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.
Learn more about sandbar sharks!