For what is at least a first in the U.K. and could potentially be a world first according to zoologists, an angel shark has given birth to 19 pups in captivity. It's not the number of offspring that's astonishing, but the success researchers had at helping the critically endangered shark give birth, details of which they'll be sharing with other aquariums in hopes for similar results.
The mother shark, Anne, and her premature pups at Deep Sea World in Scotland are doing well. Prior to Anne's three-week labor, researchers were able to capture live footage of the pups while still in the womb using endoscopy.
Watch the footage here:
Deep Sea World reports the birth being long and drawn out, with four pups being born a week after the first. Eleven pups were born in one day in the following week, and the final three came a few days later:
“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," [Deep Sea World’s Zoological Manager Chris Smith said.]
“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 protectthe species from the threat of extinction,” he added.
Specialist vet Romain Pizzi joined divers and Deep Sea World’s zoological team to assist with the delivery of the pups. He managed to get the first ever live images of shark pups inside their mum by using a tiny camera on the end of an endoscope.
The angel shark can reach up to 2 meters in length. In 2006, the shark was declared extinct in the North Sea and put on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species as critically endangered.