Four Baby Sharks Born in Steinhart Aquarium
'George Washington' and 'Betsy Ross' Born on the Fourth of July

San Francisco (July 9, 2003) - Marsha, a six-foot long, white-tipped shark who lives at the Steinhart Aquarium in Golden Gate Park, gave birth to four, 25-inch, three-pound baby sharks on Friday, July 4th. The mother had been receiving special care from the Aquarium staff at the California Academy of Sciences during the final months of her pregnancy.

"We are very pleased to welcome the four newest arrivals to the Steinhart Aquarium - where they join more than 6000 other animals, representing over 600 species from all over the world," said Bob Jenkins, director of the Steinhart Aquarium. "I am particularly proud of the Aquarium staff. Whenever a mother in captivity gives birth to healthy offspring, following a closely-monitored pregnancy, it is an indication that the animals are being especially well cared for."

In the wild, baby sharks often don't make it past their first days of life. However, in their first hours, Marsha's pups appeared to be healthy. As they develop, it is anticipated that the young sharks will eat approximately 10% of the their body weight each week and will spend much of their time resting together in a dark corner of their tank. Two of the pups appear to be females, one appeared to be a male and one was unknown. Their sexes will be confirmed at a later date. In honor of the day of their birth, two of the pups have been given the nicknames 'George Washington' and 'Betsy Ross.'

Pam Schaller, the Aquatic Biologist primarily responsible for shark care, determined that Marsha might be pregnant when she noticed bites around the shark's gills in May 2002. Male sharks typically bite females during copulation, which lasts about two minutes. The gestation period for white-tipped sharks is 12-14 months. Careful observation and monitoring of her condition confirmed the pregnancy earlier this year.

The mother has been kept in a private tank since late March to protect her offspring from the other sharks in the main shark tank. Shortly after giving birth, Marsha was returned to the main shark tank, to ensure that she won't eat her own young.

The father of the four pups is either Amos or Arthur - the two male, white-tipped sharks at the Steinhart Aquarium. The three sharks have lived at the Steinhart since 1996 when the Academy's exhibit, "Sharks of the Tropics" opened.

White-tipped sharks (Triaenodon obesus) are native to the tropical areas of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The sharks are most active at night, often spending their days resting in caves and reefs.

The Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences houses over 6,000 live specimens, representing nearly 600 species of fishes, large invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians and penguins in almost 200 living exhibits. Founded in 1923, the Aquarium is now home to one of the most diverse collections of aquatic life in the world.

 

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