Attractions A Shark Like No Other 17 December 2019 by Visit Blackpool Conservationists at SEA LIFE Blackpool are celebrating after the birth of a remarkable shark small enough to fit in your hand. One of the defining species of evolution, the epaulette can ‘walk’ along rocks or sand by using two sets of adapted fins. Now one – measuring just 10 centimetres long – has been born at the popular seafront aquarium, as part of its ‘breed, rescue, protect’ programme. “Epaulette sharks are really unique," said Matthew Titherington, general manager at SEA LIFE Blackpool. "While they can swim, a lot of their movement is accomplished by 'walking' with the use of several of its fins. "It’s got a really unique style, which helps it to navigate the intricacies of coral reefs and hunt for food. We’re pleased the new-born epaulette is continuing to make good progress and feeding well.” The species is mainly found in shallow waters along the coast of Australia. Living in an environment of complex reefs and changing tidal pools, the tiny epaulette shark has developed a number of unique adaptions to make it suited to life in the shallows. These allow the species to hunt effectively at low tide, avoiding competition from larger sharks that are forced to retreat back out to deeper waters. While epaulette sharks are a relatively small species, reaching only around one metre in length, they are from the same family as the largest living fish species, the whale shark. While capable of swimming, unlike any other shark species, the epaulette seems to prefer ‘walking’. Using their muscular pectoral fins, they crawl between rock pools in search of food. They are unusually resistant to low oxygen levels, as they are often left stranded in small pools by the outgoing tide where the oxygen supply can deplete rapidly. Yet, incredibly, epaulettes can survive here for long periods of time by increasing blood supply to their brain and shutting down non-essential brain functions. In laboratory conditions, they have been found to be able to survive in water with no oxygen levels whatsoever for upwards of an hour. This little shark is most active at low-tide and at night, particularly around dusk and dawn. Eating worms, crustaceans and fish, epaulette sharks possess an electro-receptive super power sense that allows them to detect prey in sand or murky water. Remarkably, they are also able to depress their teeth to form a flat surface for cracking shells and, unlike most sharks, can chew their food, often for up to 10 minutes before digesting it. Sandy-brown in colour with a pattern of dark spots, these sharks are well camouflaged. They also have two large black spots surrounded by a white ring, resembling large eyes. These appear in many species, including butterflies, birds, reptiles and other fish, to make the creature appear bigger to intimidate predators. They may also help deflect attacks away from vital parts of their body. The epaulette shark has a short-rounded snout, long tail and thick-rounded muscular fins. They belong to a group known as the carpet sharks, which include wobbegongs and the whale shark. They reproduce by laying eggs at night among the coral. From August-January, females will lay one pair of eggs every 14 days, producing 20 eggs a year. Pup’s hatch after around 115-130 days and are born around 10-16cm long. What they lack in size, they make up for in attitude. They’re not afraid of humans and will nip if captured. Currently living in the nursery area, aquarists will move the new baby shark to the main display when it gets larger. SEA LIFE Blackpool works closely with its charity partner, the Sea Life Trust, as part of its popular 'breed, rescue, protect' campaign, to develop and support conservation projects worldwide. These have already seen over 6,600 turtles rescued and rehabilitated, as well as other species.