Penguins & Sharks As Roomates

New roommates can be dicey, but imagine the unease among the penguins at the California Academy of Sciences, as the Penguin Post  has learned that in a few weeks, they’ll be sharing their living quarters with a school of sharks.  Academy biologists are training five pyjama sharks, recently acquired from an aquarium in Portugal, to cohabitate with the 16 resident African penguins. This will be only the second aquarium in the world, aside from the Lisbon aquarium, to mix these two species. The purpose is not to create mass carnage, but to show both species in a more natural context. The two animals hail from the same locale, the temperate waters of the South African and Namibian coast. Academy staffers are confident the sharks won’t eat the penguins. “I’m not nervous at all. I think they’ll get along great,” said the academy’s shark expert, biologist Nancy Levine. “I think it’ll liven up everything.” If anything, Levine said, it’s the sharks that should be nervous. Pyjama sharks are docile, smallish creatures that usually stick to squid and small fish and don’t have an appetite for penguins. They spend most of their time hiding in caves or trolling along the sea floor. “Jaws,” they’re not. Penguins, on the other hand, have sharp, hook-like beaks, a territorial nature and are equally adept on land and water. They’re also on the curious side and likely to tease their new roommates, Levine said. “My guess is they’ll check out the sharks and then lose interest after the novelty wears off,” she said. In Portugal, the penguins have a tendency to nip at the sharks’ fins and tear up their egg cases. If that occurs in San Francisco, the sharks will get their own room back. Since the sharks arrived in December, the staff has kept them in a backstage tank where they’re undergoing training for dining etiquette. Training consists of staffers ringing a bell underwater and feeding the sharks squid hooked to a long stick. Gradually they raise the stick, so the sharks get in the habit of swimming to the surface when they hear the bell. This will make feeding-time easier once they move in with the penguins, and make sure that penguins won’t be on the menu.

Penguins waiting for their new roommates


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