Shark has 19 pups over three weeks
Published 08/12/2011 | 15:04
An endangered shark has given birth to 19 pups in a labour spanning three weeks.
Anne the angel shark delivered one pup in her first week of labour, four the following week, eleven on Monday and another three on Wednesday.
Zoologists at Deep Sea World in North Queensferry, Fife said they are thrilled with the births.
Zoological manager Chris Smith said: "All the pups, including the one which was born prematurely, are doing extremely well. We have already got a number of them to take food from a stick which is a very positive sign.
"It's been an amazing effort by Anne and we're absolutely delighted that such a vulnerable species has bred successfully in captivity for the first time.
"For us to have had one pup would have been a cause for real celebration, to have 19 of them is nothing short of extraordinary."
Five years ago the angel shark, which can grow to two metres in length, was listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's red list of threatened species and in 2006 the species was declared extinct in the North Sea.
They grow slowly and mature only when they reach a large size. The result is that few angel sharks reach maturity to breed, leaving the species at risk of extinction.
Specialist vet Romain Pizzi joined divers and Deep Sea World's zoological team to help deliver the pups. He managed to get the first known live images of shark pups inside their mother by using a tiny camera on an endoscope.
Mr Smith added: "We'll be sharing the information we have gained throughout the pregnancy and birth with other aquariums throughout Europe in the hope that we can replicate this success at other sites and help to protect the species from the threat of extinction."