A SHARK pup, destined to die, has been nursed into the world, inside an artificial egg.
Two weeks premature, ‘Dash’ was just 12 centimetres and 35 grams when he was ‘born’ earlier this month.
Brown banded bamboo sharks have been listed as a vulnerable species and are part of a breeding program at Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters, Bobs Farm.
“There was a 99 per cent chance he would die if we didn’t intervene,” Irukandji director and marine biologist Ryan Pereira said.
The pup’s egg became perforated toward the end of what was meant to be a 90-day gestation.
Mr Pereira wasn’t sure why but Dash came under attack from arthropods – small aquatic creatures about the size of a match head – that are part of the ecosystem recreated at the aquarium.
The eggs, he said, were naturally permeable but will begin to float when perforated. This exposes the pup and its yolk sac to attack and in the wild could cause it to be washed up on a beach.
A plastic jar with small holes punched through the lid and base was used to protect Dash and his yolk sac.
“We held off until the last possible second because we like to keep things as natural as possible,” Mr Pereira said.
Brown banded bamboo sharks are part of the carpet shark family found in tropical Australia and South East Asia.
Mr Pereira said Dash would grow to about 1.5 metres when mature and in the wild would feed off invertebrates and small fish in reef areas. The carpet sharks remain more prey than predator.
“To this day they’re still being poached from the reefs, not so much for home aquariums but for their fins,” he said.
“Even though we’re not a third world country these attitudes persist.”
Dash is part of the second litter to mum, ‘Bam’ and dad, ‘Shoot’.
She’s produced 115 eggs; 30 per cent fertile but “at best” only 15 per cent of those will gestate.
The Irukandji tourist operation is a marked departure from Port Stephens’ history.
“They harvested a lot of sharks here in Port Stephens when the shark factory was here at World War II,” Mr Pereira said.
“They used to harvest tonnes at Shoal Bay.”
The staff at Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters produced a short video to document Dash’s journey.