A baby shark believed to be the UK’s first successfully bred and reared blacktip reef species has found a permanent home at a seafront aquarium in Blackpool.
Ariel, a tiny female pup measuring just 53cm long (1.7ft), arrived at SEA LIFE Blackpool just 61 days after birth.
There have been other other blacktip pups born at UK aquariums but only Ariel managed to survive the critical first two months.
She is also the first bred and reared blacktip pup to survive in the UK – some have been successfully bred and reared at other aquariums across Europe.
Experts believe she is out of danger and should go on to reach full adulthood. Ariel is currently gaining weight at a rate of 100 grams per week.
SEA LIFE Blackpool has specialist nursery facilities for baby sharks and rays and is already hosting a young zebra shark.
The tiny pup was discovered on December 12 at LEGOLAND Windsor’s Atlantis attraction during a routine dive.
Matt Wildsmith, a senior aquarist at LEGOLAND Windsor, said: “We had seen adult blacktips mating about 12 months earlier, but we didn’t think any of our five females were actually pregnant.
“So Ariel’s appearance took us completely by surprise!
“We think instinct had guided her to the shallowest section of Atlantis where she would be safest.”
Ariel is now spending time in quarantine to ensure she is feeding well and completely healthy before transferring to her new residence in the aquarium’s marine nursery.
Blacktip reef shark is one of the most common sharks found in shallow water around coral reefs of Indo-Pacific waters.
The species gets its name from the pointed snout and black tips on its fins and can grow up to 2.9 metres (9.5ft) in length.
Blacktip reef shark populations have been affected by overfishing, primarily for their fins, which are believed to be used in China for shark-fin soup.
SEA LIFE aquariums across the country already house a large number of blacktip reef sharks, most of which have now reached maturity. The group has recently has launched a breeding programme.
Mr Wildsmith said: “The knowledge gained in the process could be invaluable in the future, if there is ever the need to reintroduce captive-bred blacktips into the wild.”