CHATANOOGA, Tenn. (WATE) — Three critically endangered Short-tailed Nurse Shark pups hatched at the Tennessee Aquarium on July 7.

The nocturnal sharks, native to the western Indian ocean around the island of Madagascar, are expected to grow to just under three feet long and may live up to 30 years in human care, the aquarium said. They are the first pups hatched from three adult Short-tail Nurse Sharks that came from a facility in Canada last year.

Short-tailed Nurse Sharks main diet is comprised of fish and crustaceans. They do resemble the Atlantic Nurse Shark, but they are not closely related. Aside from where they live, one key distinction is that Short-tailed Nurse Sharks lay eggs while Atlantic Nurse Sharks give birth to live young and are significantly larger.

According to the aquarium, the adults came with eight juveniles and eight fertilized eggs, which hatched in 2021. The newest hatched pups are the first produced from eggs laid by the breeding trio since arriving at the aquarium.

The exhibition and breeding program at the aquarium aims to raise awareness of the conservation of the sharks in the wild while avoiding impacting the wild population.

“This is an example of how we’re able to not only display animals to educate the public, but we’re able to further the science behind the animals that we display,” says Senior Aquarist Kyle McPheeters, who is responsible for the Aquarium’s shark breeding program. 

The Tennessee Aquarium has the largest breeding group of any public institution in North America according to data from the Species360 Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS) database the aquarium said. The aquarium currently has half of the population of Short-tailed Nurse Sharks accounted for in the database.

For now, the Short-Tailed Nurse Sharks live in an off-exhibit area that is better suited for breeding purposes. Eventually, the aquarium’s adult Short-tailed Nurse Sharks will live alongside other small sharks in the facility’s Stingray Bay touch exhibit, which will neighbor other natives Madagascar species, like the Ring-tailed and Red-ruffed Lemurs.