With only about 20,000 residents, the city of Oarai, in Ibaraki Prefecture, isn’t exactly bursting with entertainment options. If you do find yourself with some time to kill there, though, you could stop by the Aqua World aquarium, where aquatic life including sea lions, jellyfish, and dolphins are on hand to greet visitors. The facility is even home to a number of sharks.
On a recent morning, one of the Aqua World caretakers was checking on the aquarium’s residents. At around 11 a.m., his rounds took him to the multi-tank Sea of Sharks exhibit.
The tank reserved for the largest creatures is home to a 1.6-meter whitetip reef shark, as well as a 2.8-meter sand tiger shark. Recently, the staff had been concerned by the latter’s lack of appetite, although the animal’s condition seemed to be improving.
Judging from the sight that greeted the caretaker that morning, the sand tiger shark is completely ready to start eating again, and in large quantities, too.
At some point when no one was looking, the larger of the two sharks unilaterally decided to change its smaller brethren’s role from “tank mate” to “breakfast.”
But while the sand tiger shark has the sharp teeth you’d expect from an animal with two apex predators in its name, it still wasn’t able to bite entirely through the hard skin of the whitetip. So the sand tiger switched to Plan B and tried to swallow the smaller shark whole.
This was easier said than done, though, and after about 40 minutes of struggling to choke the whitetip down, the sand tiger shark eventually gave up and ingloriously spat the deceased creature back out. The aquarium staff promptly removed the smaller one, worried that if they didn’t do so quickly, the hungry survivor might be tempted to try again. Sadly, the whitetip later died from the injuries it had sustained.
“In light of this event, we will be further increasing the effort we make when judging which sharks to place in the same tanks, taking into account their relative size and possible hostilities,” a spokesperson for the aquarium said. In the meantime, Aqua World hopes visitors will continue to support the facility and its Sea of Sharks exhibit.
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