Today, SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium aquarists and veterinary staff have made history with the birth of a Brown Banded Bamboo shark – the first ever shark in Australia to be born via artificial insemination. The pup also rewrites history on a global scale as the first shark pup born via live semen sample transported from one facility to another, highlighting the active role that the SEA LIFE network plays in Australian marine conservation.
The Brown Banded Bamboo shark pup was born on Monday 3 March, measuring approximately 16 centimetres to a 1.5 metre female, believed to be around 10 years-old.
Led by SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium Research Consultant Dr Jon Daly, together with The Aquarium Vet Dr Rob Jones, this extraordinary advancement in artificial insemination is part of an ambitious nine year project into understanding the reproductive behaviours of sharks endemic to Australia and implementing captive breeding programs.
The female shark and her new newborn pup will continue to be closely monitored by SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium aquarists and veterinarian staff and will remain off public display in the aquarium’s shark nursery facility.
How does it all work?
The insemination process commenced on 23 September 2013, where the team expertly collected a semen sample from a male Brown Banded Bamboo shark at Underwater World SEA LIFE Mooloolaba , transported to SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium via air freight, where the female shark was inseminated the same day.
From the research team…
“A labour of love for the past nine years, we’re extremely proud and excited to see our hard work paying off with the birth of this Brown Banded Bamboo shark pup,” said Dr Jon Daly.
“It was a gallant team effort across the SEA LIFE attractions, from the divers who collected the sharks, to those involved with the insemination. There is however, a stringent observation process in place to ensure the pup makes it through this critical time,” said Dr Rob Jones.
More shark pups in the future?
The duo hopes to ultimately help manage threatened shark species in the wild – in particular, the critically endangered Grey Nurse shark. The Brown Banded Bamboo sharks are considered a surrogate species as they are more common and easier to work with than the Grey Nurse shark.
“With each insemination attempt, we continue to learn about the reproductive behaviours of Australian shark species. Hopefully we can use this technology as a basis for breeding Grey Nurse sharks in captivity and, in years to come, boost the species’ dwindling numbers in the wild,” said Dr Daly.