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MOA surprise: Unexpected birth of 8 rare giant guitarsharks

Giant guitarshark babies are on display at the Mall of America's SEA LIFE for the first time.

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — If you like surprises, this should be your kind of fish story.  

“This was a good surprise, definitely,” says Traner Knott, an aquarist with SEA LIFE at Mall of America.

As Knott spoke, eight giant guitarshark pups swam in a pool at his feet.

“They’re about 3 months old,” he says. “We have four boys and four girls.”

Critically endangered in the wild, giant guitarsharks are difficult to breed in captivity.

Knott knows of only one other aquarium in the world that’s had success producing offspring.

Then, in October, during an after-hours children's program in the aquarium’s Shark Cove, two of SEA LIFE's three adult Giant Guitarsharks revealed their surprise.

“About six or seven o'clock we get a phone call, baby sharks are swimming around,” Knott says.

Aquarists raced to the mall in time to rescue all eight babies before they became prey to larger occupants of the tank.

Under the watchful eyes of SEA LIFE staff, the pups have outgrown their nursery pool.

On Friday, they were moved to SEA LIFE’s Stingray Lagoon, where, for the first time, visitors can see them.

“It's big, it's flat, there's a lot of sand - it's everything that they want,” Knott said.

But the pups’ stories will not end there. When grown, they will travel to other aquariums. Knott is among those hoping more breeding will follow.

“The ocean has given us a lot to bring us these animals so we can see them,” he says, “but if we can give back to these breeding programs then we're achieving a greater good.”

Here's to more good surprises.

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