The Two Oceans Aquarium's newly upgraded Predator Exhibit recently welcomed nine new spotted ragged-tooth sharks. As they’ve become acclimatised to their new temporary home, and as our divers have become familiar with them, we’ve all had a chance to get to know them and their unique personalities.
Now it’s your turn to get to know these amazing animals. Meet the sharks:
What is a raggie?
Ragged-tooth sharks are one of South Africa’s most iconic marine species, closely related to the great white shark. Raggies are known by many names around the world: sand tiger sharks, Carcharias taurus, grey nurse sharks, or blue-nurse sand tiger sharks. Here in South Africa they are called spotted ragged-tooth sharks, and we know and love them for their three rows of teeth, spotty camouflaged skin and characteristic humpbacks.
They are docile and not regarded as a significant threat to humans. On the other hand, humans kill 100 million sharks (including raggies) a year, making these sharks a threatened species. All the more reason to get to know your local sharks and let these nine become ambassadors for their species.
Female raggies tend to be bulkier than males, and lack any external reproductive features. One other way to tell them apart is that they often have vertical bitemark scars in front of their dorsal fins. These scars are from mating; male ragged-tooth sharks will bite the female to hold onto her while mating.
Samtu: Queen of the Predator Exhibit
This raggie is the undisputed queen of the exhibit. At 2,61m and over 100kg, she is huge. Samtu is easily recognisable by the large scar, which she obtained in the wild, behind the gills on her right-hand side.
Samtu was caught by angler Roy Martin and named after his daughter Samantha.
Dané: The scarred princess
At 2,51m and weighing 70kg, Dané is the third largest shark in the exhibit. Dané can be distinguished from Samtu by a series of small vertical scars from bites on her back, just in front of her dorsal fin. These scars are from mating.
Dané was caught by angler Mike Dedericks who named her after his wife.
Gen: The fair lady
Gen is a mid-size shark weighing just over 60kg and slightly smaller than Jeff. She is notable among the females for having very few scars.
Gen was caught by Roy Martin and named after the fiancée of local angler Gareth Shough.
Lily-May: The baby-girl
Lily-May is the smallest shark in the exhibit. She is still young, weighing 25kg and measuring 1,78m long. She can be distinguished from Bernie (who is a similar size) by her lighter colouration, clearly visible spots and slightly more humped back.
Lily-May was named after the daughter of Dr Matt Dicken, a leading South African shark researcher, by Roy Martin.
Male ragged-tooth sharks are generally smaller and more slender than females of similar age. The easiest way for you to tell the boys from the girls is to look out for their claspers - two grooved cartilage extensions located just behind their pelvic fins, which are absent in females and juvenile males.
Challen: The big boy
Challen is the biggest male shark in the exhibit, second largest overall, measuring 2,4m long and weighing almost 73kg. He is recognisable by his dark colour and U-shaped scar above his left dorsal fin.
This shark was named after the angler, Challen Gendall, who collected him for us at Seavale.
Jeff: The ladies man
Jeff and Judd are similar in size, measuring about 2,3m long and weighing about 67kg. However, Jeff does have one very-easy-to-spot characteristic: his claspers are disporportionately large compared to the other males, even Challen.
Jeff was named for the soon-to-be son-in-law of the angler who caught him, Roy Martin.
Judd: The pointy-finned
Jeff looks very similar to Judd in colouration, but his dorsal fin is much pointier than those of Jeff and Buck, making him recognisable when all three are together. Compared to the other males, Judd has very few scars.
Judd is named after a shark-loving child who visited the Aquarium with the Reach for a Dream Foundation and made a lasting impression on us.
Buck: The battle-scarred
Buck is slightly smaller than Judd and Jeff, weighing 56kg. He can be distinguished from the other males by his lighter colouration and fewer spots on his body, but many small ones on his tail. He has vertical bite scars above the gills on his right-hand side.
Buck is named after the grandfather of Dean Scott, the angler who caught him.
Bernie: The little one
This "little" male is the second smallest shark in the exhibit. At just 29kg, he has a lot of growing to do! He is 1,82m long.
He is darker in colour than the other sharks, making his spots difficult to see. Being young, his claspers are not easily visible.
Bernie was named in memory of Border provincial angler Bernie Klowkow. Gone but not forgotten, thanks for good times and happy memories.
Thanks to all those who got the sharks here safely
It would not have been possible to bring these sharks to the Aquarium without months of hard work by our dedicated collections team, led by Two Oceans Aquarium Operations Manager Tinus Beukes, and a host of volunteer anglers who assisted us. We acknowledge the contributions of these anglers by allowing them to name the newcomers - their reward for choosing to assist tag-and-release research efforts.
We would also like to thank André Bok of Pure Ocean Aquaculture whose ongoing assistance and provision of holding facilities in East London allowed us to keep these sharks quarantined, safe and healthy before their transit to the Aquarium.
The only thing missing from our Predator Exhibit is your reflection! Come see the sharks for yourself and see if you can tell Jeff from Gen!