New SEA LIFE Resident ´Gibson´
Is Half Shark...Half Ray

The latest arrival in the tropical shark tank at Hunstanton SEA LIFE Sanctuary has got visitors guessing.

Is it a shark...or is it a ray?

In fact he could be either...or indeed neither, for scientists are a little bit divided on whether the bizarre guitar shark is a shark or a ray, or belongs in a separate category of its own.
Is it a shark...or is it a ray?
Christened ´Gibson´ after the famous guitar maker, the new resident is living proof of a fact that SEA LIFE staff have been astounding visitors with for years...that sharks and rays are from the same family.

″Gibson looks like a ray with a shark´s body and tail attached,″ said displays supervisor Kieran Copeland.

″Sharks and rays are all descended from the same ancestors but at some point took different forks in the evolutionary path.

″I guess guitar sharks, and a couple of close relatives the bowmouth shark and the shovelnose guitarfish, are still stuck at the junction.″

Measuring a modest three-and-a-half feet long, Gibson could reach six feet when fully grown.

Thought to be one of only three guitar sharks currently on display at any UK aquarium, Gibson uses his broad snout to shovel through the shingle on the bed of the tank sifting out tasty pieces of fish missed by the other residents.

″He´s an amazing animal and visitors appear even more fascinated by him than they are by our bonnethead sharks,″ said Kieran.

″We´ve always had sceptical looks in the past when we´ve informed people that the harmless and docile-looking rays belong to the same family as sharks.″

″It will be nice to have Gibson here to help convince the doubters.″

The main characteristic that both sharks and rays share is having a skeleton made not from bone, but from flexible cartilage.
Issued by the Hunstanton SEA LIFE Sanctuary
For more details, please contact Nigel Croasdale on 01485 533576
Date: 10th August 2009