It’s been an active week at the aquarium.
We wrapped the preliminary trials for the shark metabolic studies. The study was truly a group effort with all of the interns spending many a midnight hour camped out in the aquarium’s wet lab anxiously attempting to count gill movement on a swimming shark with a solitary red headlamp.
For the initial protocol, one male and one female shark were kept in isolation for several weeks, and after feeding to satiation, we monitored gill movement rates and time until feeding response to establish baseline metabolic rates for the sharks over a range of different temperatures. Preliminary results were as expected, with both sharks showing faster feeding response times in warmer temperatures. While there are still all the standard little glitches to be ironed out, the trials themselves were a great success as they should provide valuable insight into the set up and operation of future wet lab studies.
This week also saw the official beginning of the Shark Labs’ participation in the national Oceanographic Research Institutes’ tag and release program. After taking measurements and collecting a photographic record of the sharks we were prepping for release: each shark was fitted with a plastic tag with an individual identification number and mailing address for ORI’s tag and release database. Then the two pyjama sharks, two puffadder shysharks, and two smooth hound sharks were loaded on to the boat and taken back to the waters off Mitch reef, where they were returned to their natural environment. While we were sad to see them go, we are excited and looking forward to the possibility of collecting important information about their population size, habitat use, and growth rate in the future.
Since an empty aquarium is never good, Saturday was spent on a collection run. A team of two snorkelers and two divers worked to collect new sharks using chum bags to draw them in, while hoping the scent didn’t attract anything too big to the location. Seal Island was only a few hundred meters away after all! Luckily the trip was a success, with three leopard catsharks, two puffadder shysharks, and one new pyjama shark added to the Shark Lab’s guests. After spending the evening acclimating to their new residence our guests were catalogued, measured and ready to begin work! Their first assignment – a new study comparing the ease of induction and total duration of tonic among the different species found locally, and the potential for using tonic induction as a tool for handling and working with the sharks in the Lab.