The Mandarin Shark that swept the aquarium and shark world by storm last week is alive and well at Country Critters in Long Island, New York. Despite being harvested from the deep waters of the Northern Philippines just about a week ago, the sensational Mandarin shark is already in the hands of a really gifted and experienced aquarist.
The first time we ever saw nice, healthy and properly cared for cool-water sharks in a dedicated aqurarium was at Country Critters who had a pair of zebra horn sharks at the time. Jonathan Hale and Country Critters are well known for specializing in truly exotic fresh and saltwatwater fish so we couldn’t think of a better home for our newly beloved mandarin shark.
Our initial proposed identification for the Mandarin shark was a possible new species of Proscyllium. But after we received the photos of this shark’s underbelly, showing the morphology of its mouth in particular, we were able to volley potential IDs for this shark back and forth with Chris Avila of BenthicSharks.ca. Together we succeeded in finally finding a photograph of an embryonic Ocellate Topeshark, Hemitriakis complicofasciata, which directly matches the Mandarin Shark in both general appearance, and the distribution wherein it is found.
Having being described as Hemitriakis complicofasciata in 2004, the Mandarin Shark is not a completely new species, but still a very poorly known shark with our initial images being the first photographs of a living specimen. Therefore the new video we’ve received of the Mandarin Shark from Country Critters is probably the first video of a living ‘Ocellate Topeshark’.
For the conservationist reading this that think sharks (and all animals) belong in the wild, we agree with you on some counts, but we’d just like to reiterate that this shark was initially fished up for human consumption. This shark was destined for the fish market and it would have been someone’s (long forgotten) meal by now had it not been rescued for life in a captive aquarium.
Mandarin Shark, Ocellate Topeshark, whatever you call it, there’s no denying that the revelation of a smallish shark with incredible markings like this is a hugely exciting discovery by the marine aquarium community. The first crop of living pictures of Hemitriakis complicofasciata made a huge splash across the interwebs, but the complicated stripes of the Mandarin Shark are even more incredible in the video now that the shark has settled in and is eating.
In the video by Country Critters you can clearly see the now aquarium-safe Mandarin Shark eagerly slurping up a mixture of frozen mysis shrimp and finely grated fresh squid, and swimming around its new aquarium in great comfort. The Mandarin Shark must be feeling right at home in the 70 degree water which approximates the temperature of the depth at which it was caught, and we truly can’t think of a better handler for the first aquarium mandarin shark.