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Afternoon Ecology: Week 5, Sharks: It's SHARK WEEK at MSI!

Everyone looks forward to Shark Week each year, and it was no different for the kids of our Afternoon Ecology program. They each showed up excited and eager to learn about the cartilaginous fish that patrol our oceans. Sharks are a subgroup of fish, characterized by their skeleton made of cartilage opposed to bone and many more gill slits (5-7 on either side of their head). They also have a lot more teeth than most bony fish. Sharks are believed to have an infinite possibility of teeth and have multiple rows of replacement teeth ready to move forward once one falls out. This week we began the day by discussing these unique characteristics and how they differ from last week’s headliner, bony fish.

Gathering around the large tank in the back of the aquarium, otherwise known as the Shark Tank, the kids got a chance to see leopard sharks interact with one another. Leopard sharks are very abundant in the San Francisco Bay but can also be found along the coast in shallow waters. They feed on bottom dwelling organisms such as clams, worms and crabs with their specialized mouths. Located on the underside of their body, they use their mouths to scoop up food. This makes them virtually harmless to humans and allows for an exciting touch-tank experience for our students. One shark was moved into a smaller tank and each student was allowed to touch the shark, head-to-tail using two fingers. This quickly became their favorite experience within the program! We discussed the anatomy of the leopard shark and Susie pointed out special details of the shark’s pattern.

Next on the agenda was exploring shark artifacts! This included various shark jaws, tooth molds, and dried cartilage. We discussed different types of sharks and their unique adaptations. Some sharks have serrated teeth, while others are smooth. They also come in varying sizes, from a mere 7 inches to a whooping 40 feet! Sharks are a very special group of fish that unfortunately are feared by many people causing a downward spiral of shark populations across the world. We hope this program inspires kids to not only care about sharks, but share their knowledge so that others can learn to care and appreciate sharks too! At the end of the day, we played the forever popular game of Sharks and Minnows! The kids got to run around and interact more with each other.

Next week is the last week of Afternoon Ecology. Please join us as we dive deep, thousands of feet into the unknowns of the ocean!

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