World's First Vegetarian Shark Shuns Meat
The shark, named Florence, made headlines in 2009 as the first shark in the world to survive an 'out of water' surgery that was necessary to remove a rusty fish hook deeply embedded in her mouth that was discovered after she stopped eating. After the surgery, her dietery preferences took an interesting change.
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Her caretakers reportedly weren't that surprised when she started stealing veggies from Molokai, the resident sea turtle, because nurse sharks occasionally ingest algae. However, since nurse sharks are obligate carnivores who normally have a preference for fish and crustaceans, her keepers were baffled when she started shunning meat altogether and have since resorted to trickery to get her to eat enough protein.
"We're having to hide pieces of fish inside celery sticks, hollowed out cucumbers and between the leaves of lettuces to get her to eat them," said curator Graham Burrows. "And it has to be well hidden, because if she realises it's there she'll ignore the offering and wait for the strictly vegetarian option."
While we may never know what caused the change to Florence's preferences, David Shiffman, author of the upcoming book "Why Sharks Matter: Using New Environmentalism to Show The Economic And Ecological Importance of Sharks, The Threats They Face, and How You Can Help" speculates that its not likely a result of captivity-induced stress, since nurse sharks are common in aquariums and this type of thing has never been documented before, but the stress from her injury, capture and surgery may have be the culprit.
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"What we do know is that when an animal suffers a traumatic experience and then radically changes its diet and behavior in an unhealthy way, it isn't something that we should celebrate," he said.
Regardless of the cause, Florence's caretakers are devoted to ensuring that she continues to receive proper nutrition to stay healthy.
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