The Shedd Aquarium, renowned for its commitment to marine conservation, has recently welcomed a trio of remarkable residents to its Wild Reef exhibit. These unique newcomers are Bowmouth Guitarfish, an extraordinary marine species that combines characteristics of both sharks and rays.
In this article, we will explore the significance of these arrivals, the challenges facing Bowmouth Guitarfish, and the crucial role that aquariums play in marine conservation.
Bowmouth Guitarfish: A Rare and Unique Species
The Bowmouth Guitarfish, scientifically known as Rhina ancylostoma, is a captivating creature that blends the features of sharks and rays. With a head resembling a ray and a shark-like tail, it is often referred to as the “Shark Ray.” Its most distinctive trait is the presence of spiky thorns along its back, shoulders, and above the eyes. These characteristics make the Bowmouth Guitarfish one of the most distinctive marine species in existence.
The Bowmouth Guitarfish’s Peril
The unique traits that make the Bowmouth Guitarfish captivating also contribute to its critical endangerment. This species belongs to the most threatened marine fish family globally, facing various threats causing a devastating population decline. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates an 80% population loss in less than half a century.
High demand for its fins in the international shark fin trade and its thorns, used in jewelry, are primary reasons for its decline. Despite protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), illegal trade persists, posing a significant threat.
Shedd Aquarium’s Conservation
Shedd Aquarium’s dedication to Bowmouth Guitarfish protection is part of a collaborative effort involving multiple institutions. They aim to formulate a comprehensive conservation and recovery plan, sharing knowledge and resources to boost the species’ survival.
The Shedd Trio: New Arrivals
Shedd Aquarium houses three female Bowmouth Guitarfish pups, orphaned when their pregnant mother was entangled in a Taiwanese fishing net. The Wild Reef exhibit is their new home. These young residents, aged 11 months, measure 4.5 to 5 feet long and weigh 79 to 85 pounds, with a potential length of 8 feet.
A Conservation Sanctuary
Noel Heinsohn, Wild Reef manager at Shedd Aquarium, is grateful for offering sanctuary to these rare creatures. Shedd’s mission extends beyond marine life haven, educating nearly 2 million annual visitors on marine conservation’s importance.
The Bowmouth Guitarfish’s arrival at Shedd Aquarium underscores the urgent need for marine conservation. These captivating creatures, with shark and ray features, face multiple threats in the wild. Collaborative efforts and aquarium sanctuaries offer hope for their survival.