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Colleagues and Friends:


 As you know, spinal deformities have long been a prevalent problem among captive sandtiger sharks (Carcharias taurus).  Long term studies conducted by The Florida Aquarium and colleagues have estimated that a minimum of 33% of sharks in captivity are affected.  To date, we still don’t know the causative factor(s) behind this disease.

 The Florida Aquarium’s Center for Conservation and collaborators are expanding on previous preliminary work.  The Shark Spine Study has the generous support of the AZA’s Conservation Endowment Fund, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund,  the Spurlino Foundation, and the Bernice Barbour Foundation.   We are asking for your participation in the study by sharing data and samples from your collection of sandtiger sharks, both healthy and affected.  Additionally, if time and resources permit, we are requesting information from any/all of the following species, healthy or affected: 


·         BlacktipReef Shark     (Carcharinus melonopterus)

·         Sandbar Shark             (Carcharinus plumbeus)

·         Whitetip Reef Shark   (Triaenodon obesus)

·         Chain Dogfish             (Scyliorhinus retifer)

·         Bonnethead                 (Sphyrna tiburo)

·         Leopard Shark            (Triakis semifasciata)

·         Nurse Shark                (Ginglymostoma cirratum)

·         Bambooshark              (Chiloscyllium plagiosum)


      In addition to making statistical comparisons among healthy and affected sandtiger sharks, we believe that making statistical comparisons among species will also elucidate potential etiologies.    

The Shark Spine Study has been developed in three stages that occur across the clinical timeline of resident sharks.  Stage I, the survey, can be completed at any time by husbandry personnel.  It includes only observational data collection.  Stage II can be completed when annual health exams of sharks are scheduled, or otherwise at any time, but prior to euthanasia.  Stage II requires veterinary coordination as radiography, phlebotomy, and hematological processing are requested.  Stage III should be completed when a shark is scheduled for euthanasia, or otherwise immediately upon the death of a resident shark.  Stage III requests tissue and data samples that can be completed during the course of necropsy.  Any animal submitted to Stage II and/or III protocols should have ideally completed all the stages prior.

Your participation will be acknowledged in all publications and presentations that arise from your contributed data, and will help the international aquarium community improve husbandry practices that, in turn, may eliminate this condition among captive sandtiger sharks in the future.

If you’d like to participate, or if you have any questions, please reply directly to Paul Anderson, Conservation and Research Coordinator of The Florida Aquarium Center for Conservation, at  Thanks so much for your consideration . 




Ilze and Paul


Ilze Berzins, PhD, DVM
Vice President of Biological Operations
PH: 813-367-4010
FAX: 813-209-2067


581705 White Oak Road
Yulee, FL 32097 USA

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