Working at a public aquarium means we get to spend a lot of time in the water, which personally I love. I love the fact there’s no talking, or bitching or gossiping. There’s no point trying to climb the greasy pole because in the shark tank the order of things is fairly clearly laid out. You know immediately who’s boss and everyone else does too. There’s no point networking because at the end of the day, wrong place wrong time and your day could end very, very badly no matter how nice you’ve been or how many favours you’ve done. If you manage to stay out of the way of something that might eat you, I think, as a fish, you would consider that a good day.
But despite the fact there’s no underhanded office politics, fish still have personalities and because we spend so much time with them, we get to see some pretty interesting behaviour. So I thought I’d introduce you to another colleague of mine that I like hanging out with …
Known in the scientific world as Chiloscyllium punctatum (I have to throw the latin name in only because it was the only language I ever excelled at and I get no other chance to use it!) but commonly known as a brown banded bamboo shark that we at work call Betty. She’s only small, just shy of a metre long but she won’t ever get much bigger. She spends a lot of time hanging out at the bottom of the shark tank because she’s pretty shy. In the wild, she would hunt mainly at night so she’s not really a morning shark – an attribute we have in common. These sharks often go hunting in tidal rock pools so they’ve developed the ability to shut down non-essential brain functions to survive in oxygen-poor environments…and they can also survive out of the water for long periods – up to twelve hours! Like the leopard shark, bamboo sharks start out life with brown bands and clear skin which they lose as they get older. I guess a bit like humans, clear skin and trendy clothes when we’re young and then we hit an age where it just doesn’t work like that anymore and things become somewhat more drab. As adults, brown banded bamboo sharks are more or less a straight brown colour.
But you know what I find really fascinating about Betty?
Betty has a crush, but her love is not for the two male bamboo sharks she lives with, instead she spends a lot of her time flirting outrageously with a human. His name is Lloyd, one of the divers at the aquarium and whenever he jumps in the tank everyone else may as well be invisible because she has eyes only for him.
If he’s lying on the bottom of the tank when he’s vacuuming the sand she’ll come and lie in front of him. If he jumps in with a feed bucket she’ll swim around his legs and if that doesn’t get his attention she’ll start swimming around his head. I swear if she had eyelashes, she’d be batting them. I don’t have any scientific facts to back this up, just hours of observations hanging out in the shark tank and always feeling slightly like I shouldn’t be there whenever Lloyd’s in the tank and Betty’s around.
When you get to hang out with sharks for long periods of time, you can’t help but love them…but it would seem that sometimes those feelings are reciprocated!