Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A New Addition to The Exploration Center


Jennifer Packard
Communications Intern

One of the Exploration Center's most exciting attractions continues to be their high and spacious shark tank, which houses various crabs, fish, and what used to be a dogfish duo named Sonja and Sophia. After nearly two years of growing, gaining weight, and fascinating the public, Sophia, the larger of the shark duo, was ready to be released back into Narragansett Bay. A few weeks ago, the EC thanked Sophia for all that she has taught people over the past two years, as staff members helped her back into the Bay.

This, of course, left Sonja by herself in the tank, looking for another pal to swim around with. Since dogfish are sharks that are known for their great abundance, the Department of Environmental Management responded kindly and quickly with a new friend for Sonja. The new deep grey shark, which currently remains unnamed, is slightly bigger than her new companion, measuring at a length of almost three feet. 

The surface of the dogfish tank

Last week, while interning at the EC, I had the chance to meet the new shark myself. I reached my hand into the tank as she swam by and felt her smooth, yet tough, skin. Apart from some scarring near the head area, possibly due to being caught in a fisherman's net or being scraped by a boat, this new addition was in great health. All things seemed to be going well between the two sharks as Sonja swam with her new friend around the perimeter of the tank, sometimes stopping to do her famous spy hopping dance and fulfilling her curiosity of what is going on outside of the tank. Shortly after the EC opened that day, the back room tank quickly became surrounded by curious parents and kids, some of whom were coming back to check on the new shark. "We already met her last week," a young boy said as he reached his hand in to pet her. "We wanted to come back and see her again and how she was doing."

Dogfish are one of the smallest species of shark, which are known for their large numbers and confident when pursuing their prey. As omnivores, dogfish are happy to eat just about anything, with some staple food of herring, crabs, small squid, and octopus. Their estimated lifespan is at an average of twenty years, but ranges altogether from twenty to one hundred. These small sharks tend to be bottom-dwellers, hunting for food along the ocean or bay floor, and are found all over the world.
Seahorses found in another tank

That day, Sonja's new pal was the source of a lot of excitement and questioning by the curious onlookers who were excited to welcome her. People stopped by in steady numbers to see and learn about the new shark. She and Sonja will be at the EC, dazzling and educating people for hat looks to be another exciting year.

- Jennifer 

Jennifer Packard is studying Creative Writing at Rhode Island College

The Exploration Center & Aquarium is open daily 10a.m. - 4p.m. through Labor Day.