Aquarium denizens making their exhibit debuts are nothing new, but a debut is always an exciting moment for a public ready to fawn, admire, and learn from aquatic animals.
But Tuesday, Jan. 27 brought two very special debuts at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, which announced a major first: It's "the first to be able to successfully reproduce zebra sharks through artificial insemination."
Fern, a 20-year-old zebra shark who has called the institution home since 1997, gave birth to two females last spring. And after care and watchfulness by staffers in the shark nursery, the duo made their debut on Jan. 27.
"The zebra shark pups are now about 2-and-a-half to 3 feet long" says the aquarium, and thus are ready for Shark Lagoon, an area that contains shallow pools where the pups can acclimate well.
Mother Fern is not far from her young pair. She's in the Shark Lagoon, too, with the larger sharks (zebra sharks are quite impressive, with Fern weighing in at 140 pounds and measuring 7-and-a-half-feet long).
The process, from artificial insemination to delivery, took from September 2013 to March 2014. Zebra shark pups "can swim and hunt on their own" upon hatching, says the Aquarium.
Want to know more about Fern, the delivery of the female pups, and how the aquarium hopes to aid "dwindling shark populations" and research worldwide, in the battle to head off "threats in the wild" to zebra sharks, which are listed as "vulnerable to extinction on the International Union of Nature (IUCN) Red List mainly because of human activities"?
Chat with the on-site keepers, who are ready to answer questions about all things shark, and the newest young superstars of the Aquarium of the Pacific.