A baby shark has hatched at the Tennessee Aquarium...right in the middle of the annual Shark Week celebration, according to a news release.
The tiny, striped female epaulette shark measures just a few inches long and emerged sometime between Monday evening and Tuesday morning from a leathery egg pouch laid earlier this spring by one of the Aquarium's six adult epaulette sharks.
Epaulette sharks are also known as "walking sharks" for their ability to "stroll" along the seabed or overland between shallow pools by wriggling their body and perching on the tips of their pectoral fins. Soon after its emergence from the egg pouch — also known as a "mermaid's purse" — the baby shark began living up to its species nickname by walking, and occasionally gliding, along the bottom of the acrylic holding tank, the release states.
"Epaulette Sharks are way cool," Senior Aquarist Kyle McPheeters said in the release. "They're what got me excited about raising baby sharks to begin with. It's nice to have one again, and we'll be able to send it to another aquarium pretty easily when it's older."
The Aquarium has had a successful history of raising epaulette sharks, with McPheeters raising about 90, most of which were sent to other aquariums around the country that expressed interest in exhibiting them. The species is a abundant breeder and egg layer, with females producing an average of two eggs every two weeks, according to the release.
The baby shark arrives coincides with a time when the oceanic predators tend to get more attention during Shark Week, which runs from July 28 to Aug. 4. This year's Shark Week features more than 20 hours of shark programming on the Discovery Channel.
Sharks are also generally experiencing an increase in popularity and affection due in part to the children's music video "Baby Shark Dance," which has been watched more than 3.1 billion times on YouTube.
Thom Demas, the Aquarium's director of aquatic collection, says it's worth seizing any opportunity to present sharks in a better light, as opposed to their historic reputation as ocean villains, especially to the open minds of younger viewers.
"That's one of the things we try to think about," Demas said in the release. "If you can get somebody comfortable with something at a young age, then it can really make a difference in the long run. I think the Baby Shark thing has helped a lot."
Guests can see and touch epaulette sharks — as well as Coral Catsharks and Horn Sharks — at the Aquarium. They can also cap off their Shark Week celebration in style at SharkFest on Friday, Aug. 2.