Learning about sea life at Sea Life

Ella is passionate about seals and has been rewarded with many sightings recently on the Norfolk coastline. We also wanted her and Amy to understand the work that goes into helping injured seals so spent a day at Hunstanton Sea Life centre.

The staff there were extremely welcoming and knowledgeable; they were than happy to share their expertise and offered a lot of their time to us, talking about the different sea life in the centre, why they are there and how they are looked after. Ally, one of the members of staff at the centre spent a large portion of his day talking to us as a family. He had spent many years working with different animals in Africa but had a passion for sharks. As we stood in the stunning under water ocean tunnel, and then later at the main viewing area of the shark tank, he talked to us about the sealife surrounding us, pointing out curious and beautiful creatures and feeding us with gold nuggets of information.

Lessons learned:
  • Sharks have existed on the planet for millions of years.
  • There are hundreds of different species of sharks ranging in size from the dwarf lantern shark to the whale shark.
  • Sharks are a type of fish but unlike fish they do not have bones. Their skeleton is made of cartilage, which is much lighter than bone.
  • Unlike other fish, they do not have a swim bladder to regulate their buoyancy. They rely on a large liver filled with an oil called squalene. The liver makes up 30% of the shark’s body mass.
  • To breathe, sharks extract oxygen from the seawater through their gills. The gills on a shark are open, unlike other fish and are located behind their head.
  • Most sharks need to constantly swim in order to breathe or pump water through their gills. Because they can’t stop to sleep, they shut down parts of their brain. There are some sharks that are able to remain still on the sea bed. These sharks pump water to their gills through a backward and forward movement of the eyes.
  • Sharks have a network of jelly-filled canals called electroreceptors that help them to detect the electrical charge of their prey, even if hidden beneath the sand. All living creatures give off some type of electricity as they move through the water which sharks can sense.
  • Shark skin is not made up of scales but interlocked miniature tooth-like structures. The structures are shaped like curved, grooved teeth (similar to the actual teeth of the shark), giving it a sandpaper texture in on direction.
  • A shark’s taste buds are not on its tongue but line its mouth. Before eating something, sharks will often give a test bite to see if the meal is nutritionally suitable.
We were able to observe a variety of sharks at the Sea Life Sanctuary, providing plenty of visual stimulus whilst listening to all the fascinating information that was delivered.