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Baby sandbar shark passes away at Roanoke Island aquarium

This little female was born in the Graveyard of the Atlantic gallery, and she created quite a stir, since scientists rarely get to see newborn sharks.
Credit: NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island
This 2-lb female sandbar shark is under observation at the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island

NAGS HEAD, N.C. — The sandbar shark born two weeks ago at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island has passed away.

On October 16, the aquarium welcomed a wriggling, 2-lb addition to their family - a baby sandbar shark. The shark died on Oct. 29 after going through some intensive care. Staffers saw that the shark was not eating on its own and started to show signs of infection.

They tried to assist-feed and give the baby some medicine, but it didn't respond to the aid. Therefore, aquarium officials thought it best to put the shark down.

She was actually one of two shark pups born in the exhibit, but her sister did not survive more than a day. Husbandry experts aren't sure yet what caused the sister pup to die, but they're running some tests to see if they can figure it out.

Shark pups are extremely fragile and face many challenges in the first days and weeks of their lives. Females typically bear multiple pups to increase the chances one will survive. 

“This pup meant so much to a lot of people here, and we are all taking its passing extremely hard,” said Husbandry Curator Elizabeth Huber. “We were so excited to have it with us and to share that excitement with the community.” 

This little female was born in the Graveyard of the Atlantic gallery of the aquarium, and she created quite a stir, since scientists rarely get to see newborn sharks.

In a release from the facility, Husbandry Curator Elizabeth Huber said experts were watching the baby shark closely, because "there are many developmental milestones to go before we can be confident that it is thriving."

"Though there aren’t firm numbers in cases like these, the survivability rate of shark pups in the natural world are low," wrote a spokesperson. "Biologically, sharks have multiple offspring to increase the chances of surviving the challenges of early life."

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Huber said sandbar shark pups don't need to eat in their first two weeks, but they're hoping she finds a food she likes before her yolk-sac nutrients run out.

This baby was an exact miniature of other members of her species. The release said like most sharks, this 12-day-old fish has the same bodily proportions as adults; she's just much, much smaller.