Six endangered species of shark have been born at the National Sea Life Centre in Birmingham, in what could be a “vital lifeline” for the species.
It is thought the aquarium is the only centre in the UK to have successfully bred the blackchin guitarfish – a species notorious for its slow breeding and difficulties in producing offspring.
Born in August and recently discovered by staff in the aquarium’s Shark Lagoon, the new arrivals are the centre’s third litter to a mating pair it acquired from overseas in 2018.
“The success we’ve had with these guys is really incredible,” said Holly Peters, an aquarist at the National Sea Life Centre.
“We are really, really lucky. The first litter we only had two survive but the second we had five. So it has been a case of trial and error.”
Currently just 21cm long, the little sharks are some way off full size – up to 1.8m long.
Their gender is not yet known but it is expected this will become clear when they are around four or five months old – when they will also be named.
The species’ numbers in the wild have dwindled due to pollution and over-fishing, once amongst the most popular species in southern European fish markets in the 18th century – exacerbated by their slow breeding.
“With so many threats to Blackchin Guitarfish in the wild, these babies may one day provide a vital lifeline for the species,” said Jonny Rudd, the aquarium’s curator.