Science museum

Several rays and sharks have died at the Frost Science Museum in Miami

title=wpil_keyword_linkMuseum of Science, which reopened in June 2020 after a three-month closure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.” title=”Masked visitors practice social distancing under the Oculus at the Frost Museum of Science, which reopened in June 2020 after a three-month closure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.” loading=”lazy”/>

Masked visitors practice social distancing under the Oculus at the Frost Museum of Science, which reopened in June 2020 after a three-month closure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Frost Science Museum

Scientists are investigating a recent fish kill at the Frost Science Museum in Miami, where a number of baitfish, rays and sharks recently died in the space of a week.

It was mid-March when an unknown number of false sardines — a type of baitfish — began dying in museum aquariums, said Frost Science resident veterinarian Dr. Kristen M. Dubé. And before anyone realized what was happening, she said, a few devil rays, a scalloped hammerhead shark and a silky shark also died.

Scalloped hammerhead sharks are considered critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Most types of evil rays are endangered and silky sharks are vulnerable, according to the international agency.

Dubé called it an “absolute tragedy.”

“It had a huge impact on our staff,” she said Tuesday.

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A Frost Science Summer Virtual Camp volunteer offers a virtual tour of the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in downtown Miami. GEL SCIENCE

The museum is home to a 100-foot-wide, 500,000-gallon Gulf Stream aquarium, where different species of fish, evil rays, and hammerhead sharks travel in open water.

Dubé’s team is working with water quality, nutrition and animal health experts from across the country, including the University of Florida and the University of Miami, to determine what killed the aquatic creatures. Scientists have performed necropsies and lab tests, but so far the results have been inconclusive, with most probable causes ruled out, she said.

“We haven’t seen any signs of any kind of contagious disease,” she said. “We also didn’t see any signs of a bacteria or virus.”

Dubé said researchers continue to test numerous water, tissue and blood samples to find out what killed the animals, a process that can take several weeks. She said a myriad of potential causes are being considered, from toxins to external factors that could cause animals stress.

“It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack,” she says.

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Miami’s Matthew Rosales leans his face against the glass to learn about sea life at the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science. PATRICK FARRELL Miami Herald file photo

The rest of the animals appear to be safe and the museum continues to be open to the public, according to Dubé.

“In the meantime, we are monitoring the animals very closely, making sure they maintain their appetites and watching for any changes in behavior,” she said. “If we see anything concerning, we can intervene and treat them if necessary.”

Recent Shark Deaths at Frost Science

This isn’t the first time sharks have died in the care of Frost Science, which opened in 2017.

Last year, two juvenile scalloped hammerhead sharks and one adult silky shark died in the span of three months, from September to December, Dubé said on Wednesday, confirming an earlier report from the Miami New Times.

The hammerhead sharks, which arrived in August, died after showing signs of fusarium, a potentially deadly fungus that can cause skin inflammation in some sharks, according to a 2017 research paper by veterinarian Michael Hyatt. associated with the Wildlife Conservation Society. New York Aquarium.

The museum has not determined what killed the silky shark, which was in a separate tank and had been with Frost Science since the museum opened, Dubé said.

There’s no reason to believe the fungus is the cause of the museum’s most recent fish kill, Dubé said. The vet added that these sea creatures have been with the museum almost since its inauguration and no wild animals have recently been introduced to the relevant tanks.

“It’s something we can find on the tissue samples we submitted and the lab concluded there were no signs of fungus on those tissues,” she said.

Dubé said the museum’s main goal is to determine the cause of the problem and ensure that the remaining animals remain healthy.

“We are leaving no stone unturned to find out what caused this problem,” she said.

This story was originally published April 12, 2022 5:01 p.m.

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Omar is a bilingual, bicultural journalist, covering breaking South Florida news for the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and a bachelor’s degree in education from the Universidad de Puerto Rico en Río Piedras.