First up, lets meet the chain dogfish! Note the distinctive chain pattern on their body. This local New England species can be found in the Sandy Bottom exhibit in Northern Waters. These small bottom dwelling sharks can grow to about two feet long (though they more likely grow to 15 to 18 inches) and can be found from New England to Florida feasting on small prey such as crustaceans, worms and fish. You can find them living in areas built up with piers and other man-made structures.
These types of environments make it hard for fishermen to trawl for their catch, which in turn makes for a great nursery for chain dogfish. Females will lay two cases at a time, using the sticky tendrils on the ends of the cases to secure them to the bottom (another reason that they prefer areas with lots of structure and habitat). After about eight months, the young will hatch and be on their own.
And here's an interesting tidbit: Did you know that chain dogfish are thought to have fluorescent properties after being observed by a deep sea exploration in 2005? Scientists were able to take photographs of these sharks emitting a greenish glow, though they still aren’t sure what the purpose is.
Next up, the spotted ratfish. This animal, also called the chimera, is a cartilaginous fish, just like sharks and can be found in the Boulder Reef exhibit.
This species of ratfish can be found in the eastern Pacific (Alaska to Baja Mexico) and can be found both near shore and offshore. Their colors make for great camouflage: the white spots and dark brown back help to blend in with the ocean floor. They can use their grinding plate teeth to crush food like clams, crabs, shrimp and worms.
Don't forget about the skates! These animals look like rays and act like rays but skates are a different type of animal. The cartilaginous fishes live in the colder waters of the world, and unlike their tropical cousins, skates do not have a venomous spine along their tail.
There are five different species currently in the Sandy Bottom exhibit of the Northern Waters exhibit. In the wild, they all can be found in roughly the same geographic region, inhabiting waters from the Gulf of St Lawrence and Nova Scotia in Canada down to the waters off North and South Carolina. Their diets (worms, crabs, fish, crustaceans and squid) are also similar. The next time you visit, see if you can find the little skate (about a foot and a half), the thorny skate (about three feet long), the clearnose skate (about 3 feet long), the winter skate (about three and a half feet long) and the barndoor skate (one of the largest skates in the Atlantic)! Most of the skates are all the same size so you have to look at body shape and color pattern to tell who is who in the tank, which can be most challenging when the skates bury themselves in the sand to hide.
On your next visit, ask someone with an Aquarium shirt to point out some of these interesting species and get to know some shark and ray relatives. And don't forget to say hi to their relatives in The Trust Family Foundation Shark and Ray Touch Tank!