Category

Sharks

Fin-tastic Fish Families

Families come in many shapes and sizes. While you may think your family has their fair share of problems, in the fish world things are a little different…

Some fish mouth brood.

Mouth brooding means that the fish keep the babies and/or eggs in their mouth until they are ready to swim on their own. The best example of this is the cardinalfish. Cardinalfish, like the pajama cardinalfish above, actually have to live with at least one other cardinalfish or they are too lonely to go on by themselves! When the mother lays eggs, the father fertilizes them and then holds them in his mouth. He removes the bad eggs and turns the healthy ones until they hatch. Once hatched, they then live in his mouth for 10 days! When they are ready, they swim off on their own to be adopted by sea anemones who protect them until the cardinalfish are larger.

The most protective parents are egg guarders.

For egg guarders, it is usually the male that finds or builds the perfect nest to attract a female and then watches the developing eggs until they are ready to swim off on their own. Our aquarium has many examples of nest guarding animals, two of which live in the kelp forest – the kelp greenling and lingcod.

In the fish world, it seems the fathers are more commonly the “stay at home” type.

Wolf eels, pictured above, are one exception. The father and mother live together in a cave. When the time is right, the mother will lay eggs and the father will fertilize them. Both parents take turns holding and turning the eggs with their tail until they hatch.

This next animal is not a fish, but this list would not be completed without mentioning them…

The female octopus dedicates her life to her children. Most species have a short lifespan. The giant Pacific octopus, for example, lives for a maximum of five years! An octopus usually grows really fast, reproduces and then passes away. The mating ritual between octopuses is pretty brutal, usually the father does not survive. The mother will lay thousands of eggs and gently brush them with her arms providing them with oxygen for their survival. During this time, the mother will usually fast. When the young octopuses are born, her final gift to them is her body as a food resource. Now the baby octopuses have their best foot forward for the new world.

The oddest families of all the fish? You may think are seahorses, but you would be wrong…

The oddest fish families are sharks! Here are a few amazing shark family facts.

Hammerhead sharks spend most of their days alone searching for food. However, once a year they have a family reunion! Many hammerheads swim in from their solitary homes to meet their relatives. Their reunion is at a good feeding ground and a great place to meet their mate. These are one of the few schooling sharks, which is one of the theories behind their cephalofoil (hammer-shaped head). Some scientists think the extrasensory organs in their oddly shaped head aids in communicating with other hammerheads of the same species. At the Aquarium, you will find the smallest type of hammerhead, the bonnethead!

If you are not a big fan of your siblings, then maybe you are a shark.

Adelphophagy! No, that was not a typo. Have you ever heard of shark children fighting to the death in-utero? Well adelphophagy is the fancy science word for it. Usually this is a characteristic of larger sharks, such as the great white or shortfin mako shark. However, the sand tiger sharks at our aquarium reproduce the same way. You may think this strategy is odd, and why not have a sibling? They can sometimes be your best friend! Sharks want their children to have the very best chance of survival. If three sharks are born at once, usually only one of those three will survive to adulthood. There are predators that think small sharks are tasty. But, if a shark has three young and one consumes the other two, that one shark has a good chance of survival based on their initial size and full stomach at birth. Talk about sibling rivalry.

Lastly, some female sharks can have children without a partner. They are not adopting their children; instead, they are making semi-copies of themselves. This process is called parthenogenesis. This is fairly rare and scientists only know this has happened because they have tested the genetics of the shark children. One of these parthenogenetic species lives at out aquarium, the whitespotted bamboo shark. If the sharks finds itself in an area without partners, female sharks will double the genetic material present in an existing egg, which can result in a child!

You may think your family is quirky and odd, but you proudly celebrate them anyway. And here at the aquarium we celebrate all of our fin-tastic fish families! Happy Family Day!

 

 

Have a question about the Aquarium, or something you would like to see on Deep Sea Diary? Comment below for the chance for your question to be featured in our monthly Q&A post!

 

Celebrating the Sawfish

Next Tuesday, October 17th is the first annual International Sawfish Day!

There are only five species of sawfish in the world – Dwarf, Knifetooth, Smalltooth, Largetooth and Green sawfish. The largest being the smalltooth sawfish, which can grow up to 25 feet!

Sawfish are considered the most threatened group of Elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) in the world. Here at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, we have two resident green sawfish, who live in the Dangerous Lagoon exhibit.

Green sawfish are more closely related to stingrays than sharks. They are a modified ray with a shark-like body, and can grow over 15 feet in length! Commonly mistaken for swordfish, sawfish are elasmobranchs meaning their skeleton is made of cartilage (like our ears and nose), and not bone. Our female green sawfish is easily our largest animal at the Aquarium, weighing in at over 400 pounds over 14 feet long from end to end! (Don’t know which one is female, and which one is male? When viewing the sawfish from within the Dangerous Lagoon tunnel, look for the presence of claspers. These male reproductive organs are modifications of the pelvic fins and are located on the inner margin of the pelvic fins.)

The rostrum, or “saw,” is what makes these animals so unique!

A sawfish’s rostrum is long and narrow, edged with teeth and can comprise up to 30% of their length! Depending on the species, the rostum is comprised on 16-37 pairs of teeth on either side. Once lost, these teeth will never grow back.Contrary to popular belief, the saw is not used to saw into other animals. An efficient weapon covered in electroreceptors, called ampullae of Lorenzini, the rostrum allows sawfish to detect their prey in the substrate, before taking lateral swipes to stun or kill.

With all five species listed as endangered or critically endangered by the IUCN, the first annual International Sawfish Day couldn’t have come at a better time!

Sawfish are a vulnerable species due to their unique morphology and slow growth. Their rostrum often causes entanglement in fishing nets and other marine debris and can often lead to targeted trophy hunting. They are also continuously hunted for their meat, liver oil and fins for the shark fin trade. And, as a species commonly found in shallow coastal waters, their habitat is at risk due to development.

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But, you can help!

One way to do so is by joining Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada on Facebook! On October 17, we will be celebrating International Sawfish Day with TWO Facebook LIVE events – 8:45am & 1:00pm (topics listed below).

8:45am – “All About Sawfish” Facebook LIVE with our Senior Aquarist Kat!

1:00pm – “Sawfish Feed” Facebook LIVE with our Lead Educator Danielle!

We hope to ‘sea’ you there!

 

Is there something that you’ve always wanted to know about sawfish? Leave your sawfish questions below (before Monday, October 16) for your chance to WIN a sawfish stuffed animal, two general admission tickets and a keychain, AND have them answered during our Facebook LIVE on International Sawfish Day!

Diving with Sharks at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada

 

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Have you ever wondered what it would be like to scuba dive with sharks?

How about doing it without hopping on a plane, or leaving the comfort of Toronto?

Now you can, thanks to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada’s Discovery Dive program!

Like many avid scuba divers, diving with sharks was always on the top of my bucket list. For over three years, I watched my Ripley’s Aquarium colleagues dive in Dangerous Lagoon to perform routine maintenance and cleaning, and had always wondered what it felt like to come face-to-face with the ocean’s top predator.

So, when Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada launched the Discovery Dive program in Fall 2016, I dove at the opportunity to find out for myself.

Led by experienced Education and Husbandry/Animal Care staff, this two-hour experience begins with a behind the scenes tour of the Aquarium. If you’ve ever wondered how an Aquarium maintains the tanks, tests water quality, where the food is prepped and even how they move large animals to and fro, this behind the scenes tour will answer all of your questions and more.

After the tour, you’ll don your wetsuit, do a safety briefing and equipment check, and then, it’s dive time!

The 30-minute guided dive takes place in the Dangerous Lagoon, a 2.9 million litre tank that gives you the chance to see the Aquarium’s green sea turtles, green sawfish, stingrays, moray eels and numerous of species of tropical fish. And you can’t forget about the stars of the show, the sharks. The Dangerous Lagoon is home to over a dozen sharks, representing three species – sand tiger, sand bar and nurse. Some even measure up to 13 feet long! Talk about feeling like a small fish.

Some people may call me crazy, but there’s no need to worry about the sharks on this dive (or even in the wild for that matter), they’re just looking to go about their own business. The trained Divers that are guiding you through the water work with these animals every day. They know exactly what behaviours to look for, how to tell the sharks to move along and are very good at communicating with the guests about when to stop, when to keep your eyes open and most importantly, when to relax and enjoy the scenery.

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So what exactly did it feel like to come face-to-face with the ocean’s top predator?

Just like I had always imagined, absolutely exhilarating. Being under the water, surrounded by fish, is such a calming experience. That’s right, calming. And despite the busy summer crowds staring at me from the other side of the tank, this underwater adventure was something I will be talking about for a long time.

Learn more about the Discovery Dive requirements, availability, cost and more on our website.

And if diving with the sharks isn’t for you, or you’d just like to keep your head above water, check out the Stingray Experience – your chance to get up close and personal with the cownose and southern stingrays in another feature tank, Ray Bay.

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is proud to donate 10% of proceeds from the Discovery Dive program to the Shark Research Institute to support their work in shark conservation. Visit their website to learn more about their work.

 

Have a question about the Aquarium, or something you would like to see on Deep Sea Diary? Drop us a line in the comments below before August 31, 2017 for the chance to be featured in our monthly Q&A post and win 2 tickets to the Aquarium!