Welcome to Big Shark Bay. This exhibit has multiple species that I will highlight right now. Let's start with the sharks. We have three Nurse sharks in this exhibit. The Nurse shark is a benthic or bottom dwelling species. They have the unique ability to breathe while sitting still. Most shark species need to be swimming to be able to breathe, known as ram ventilation. Look at the gills of the Nurse shark and you will notice that the water is flowing over them allowing them to breathe. Nurse sharks get their namesake from the strong suction that they create while eating. This strong pull allows Nurse sharks to feed on invertebrates like Conchs. Nurse sharks do still have teeth. Nurse sharks have multiple rows of razor sharp teeth curving back into the mouth. So these teeth do work hand in hand with that strong suction.
We have trained our Nurse sharks in this exhibit to respond to targets. We can independently call each animal up to station at their target. While there, they are rewarded with food. This positive reinforcement training is also one of our encounters that we offer. If you want to get up close and personal with one of these training sessions, you can sign up at the front desk with Guest Services.
The other species found in this exhibit are native to Florida and the Florida Keys. The Goliath Grouper is our largest species in this exhibit. The Atlantic Goliath Grouper is the second largest species in the entire world. They can get up to 800lbs and 8 ft in length. Goliath Groupers are a protected species and have been since the 1990s. The Goliath Grouper was well over fished and had some enviromental impacts as well, such as loss of habitat. With this protection in place our Goliath Grouper is coming back in numbers.
The other species in this exhibit is a Black Grouper. The Black Grouper can manipulate the pigmentation of their scales. You may find the Black Grouper almost pale white with a thin black trim, or he can be found solid black, or can be found with a very distinct checkered pattern. This color changing behavior is not only beneficial for their camoflauge ability, but it can be a way to express distress or mood to another fish.
The Cubera Snapper is another large fish in this exhibit and is the largest in the Snapper family. This Cubera is about 40lbs currently. Cuberas can reach almost 100 pounds. Check out his huge teeth.
Another species that we have in here is the Porcupine Puffer fish. The Porcupine Puffer fish has the unique ability to gulp air to triple the size of this animal and make the small spines stand straight up to make it difficult for any predator to try and consume. Those that do try, however, will be met with a very powerful toxin that is found inside the Puffer fishes flesh. The predator may not live to see another day.
Now, let's continue over to our Tide Pool Touch Tank.