Snappy: The horse-eyed Jack (above) bearing the Galapagos Shark’s smile is healing nicely, but the wound is still visible if you visit the aquarium this week. You’ll have to wait patiently to pick out the jack that survived the bite. The Galapagos shark (below) is a beautiful, though misunderstood creature whose actions in the Bermuda Aquarium’s North Rock tank are a ‘window on the wild’. *Photos by B. Candace Ray
If you lived in a fish tank and showed up one morning with a large bite mark on your body, you might expect people to stare a little harder than normal. Spare a thought, then, for the horse-eyed jack that is currently sporting a 'shark smile' on its left side.
It wasn't too hard for aquarium experts to narrow down the prime suspect and if you're a male Galapagos shark sharing the same living space, where are you going to hide?
The good news is that the jack will live and since the incident several weeks ago, everyone now seems to be getting along just fine.
The shark was fingered for the bite through a process of elimination.
Only the Galapagos shark could have made the fairly circular bite, according to Patrick Talbot, head aquarist at the Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo (BAMZ). The toothless nurse and gummy sharks, he explained, use bony plates in their mouths to crush their food.
Other inhabitants of the North Rock Exhibit are also off the hook.
Aquarium collector, Chris Flook explained: "The eel tends to lunge and hold on. The grouper are whole swallowers, but the shark and the barracuda are like Samurai. They'll just sort of slash and gash. They're trying to maim the animal so they can get a better grip on it."
The barracuda was ruled out because its bite is triangular. So it appears the Galapagos shark did the deed, sidling up and leaving its mark as the jack frantically rejoined its school so as not to give his attacker a chance to get that better grip.
It was doubtless the talk of the tank that day, but acting principal curator, Dr. Ian Walker said it was a minor event and that the shark was simply exhibiting a healthy predator instinct.
"The predation aspect is simply a fact of life in multi-species exhibits," he said.
Aquarists limit such attacks by feeding the animals well and regularly and closely monitoring their behaviour.
"We do not take this responsibility lightly," he said. "That is why most of the people in this field are extremely passionate about what they do and how well they do it."
Dr. Walker's wish is to broaden understanding of sharks as vital links in the marine eco-system, and says that as a 'living' entity, the North Rock Exhibit can help.
"It's a natural tank," he said, "a window on the wild.
Dr. Walker added: "People have made sharks out to be monsters of the deep that we should be afraid of and in some instances destroy.
"Mankind is rapidly destroying shark populations and this has grave consequences for the health of the oceans."