behind the scenes

What to Know About the New York Aquarium’s New Shark Building

A sand tiger shark in the ‘Hudson Canyon’s Edge’ exhibit. Photo: Benjamin Lowy

On June 30, after 14 years of planning (including a yearlong delay caused by Hurricane Sandy), the New York Aquarium will open “Ocean Wonders: Sharks!,” a three-story, 57,500-square-foot building housing around 60 sharks and rays. A handful of them are New York natives whose brethren live off the boardwalk.

How many species are there? 
18, including some baby epaulette sharks, a speckled sandbar named Angus, and a school of all-female blacktip reef sharks.

Which ones are native New Yorkers?
3 types: sand tigers, sandbars, and nurse sharks. “Though they can be found in New York, we’d never put a great white or a blue shark here,” New York Aquarium director Jon Forrest Dohlin says. “They’re evolved to keep moving in a straight line for long distances. Sand tigers and sandbars are slower swimmers.They’re used to moving in and out of tight spaces.”

You use how many gallons of water?

What’s for dinner?
Herring, capelin, and squid.

How much food do they eat?
180 pounds per week.

What’s off the menu?
“We put 500 bony fish in to swim with the big sharks: crevalle jacks, permits, and striped bass. We only lost ten to the sharks, because we acclimated the fish to the tank before we added the sharks in there.”

Who names them?
A rock-and-roll star turned animal supervisor. “Or, okay, he had some success as a rock-and-roll singer. They’re named after guitarists. Also, characters from zombie movies or zombies themselves. Like dogs, they each have their own personality traits. There’s a sandbar called Paul, for instance, who is very gentle when he takes his food — versus Malcolm, who is frantic and tends to snatch.”

How old’s the oldest shark?
34 years. “Bud Logan, a sand tiger, is the oldest. He’s 34. But there’s also Ray Charles, the roughtail stingray, who’s 42.”

*This article appears in the June 25, 2018, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

What to Know About the New York Aquarium’s Shark Building