Critters of the month - Lemon & nurse sharks

11 May 2011

Interview with

Eugenie Clark, Mote Marine Laboratory

We ask legendary marine biologist Genie Clark aka 'The Shark Lady' if she was a marine critter, which one she'd be, and why.

Genie - Never thought of being a marine animal!

Helen - Well, I guess the other question is which if your favourite?

Genie - Yeah, that's tough too because I have so many favourite. I supposed the lemon shark is my favourite shark because we got to know individuals and train them to press a target and ring a bell for their food. And that opened up a whole new field and interest.

Nurse sharkWe had nurse sharks very commonly here. The big nurse sharks didn't seem to catch on at all to the target but that's because they're almost blind. So they can't choose the correct target however we put it in the water. But the lemon sharks have keen eyesight.

But we later found out that nurse shark babies have keen eyesight and they loose it as they get older. And they feel their environment with their barbels.

So I remember taking a baby nurse shark to the crown prince [of Japan] who is now the emperor. I struck up a good friendship with a trained baby nurse shark that never made a mistake.

The airline gave me an extra seat for the shark. Most people didn't know, he wasNurse shark such a tiny little thing, he was less than 2 feet long. But he never made a mistake. 

And my assistant at that time, a high school kid Freddy Aronson, Freddy said, when I said, I have to take a present to the Emperor but they have everything. And he says, well, why don't you take our trained shark, nobody else in the world has a shark that never makes a mistake. So I took that.

Find out more

Mote Marine Laboratory

Eugenie Clark's website

Lemon sharks on Florida Museum of Natural History

Nurse sharks at Florida Museum of Natural History 

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