Sharks have a reputation of being vicious killers, feasting on whatever animal comes into their domain. Some of their reputation is undeserved — while movies like Jaws create the illusion that sharks prey on people, that’s hardly the case. According to the University of Florida, there have been fewer than 2,500 unprovoked shark attacks on humans since 1580. (Yes, 1580.) But regardless, one thing is for sure: all sharks, regardless of specific species, are carnivorous.
All, that is, but one. Meet Florence, above.
Florence is a tropical nurse shark, who lives at the Birmingham National Sea Life Centre in the United Kingdom. She was brought there in 2009, from Weymouth Sea Life Park in southern England, where she had just been one of the first sharks to undergo out-of-tank surgery. Florence, at the time, had stopped eating and had grown “pale and listless” per the BBC, and an ultrasound found the culprit: a rusty fishing hook lodged in her jaw. The surgery, successful, removed the hook from her jaw and restored her appetite, but for some reason, Florence lost her taste for meat. She became the world’s first known vegetarian shark.
Kind of. It is probably more accurate to call her the first would-be vegetarian shark, if her caretakers did not step in. As reported by Treehugger, Florence’s diet isn’t ideal, her being a shark and all. While she will eat lettuce, cucumbers, and other vegetables, these foods lack the nutrients she needs to survive and thrive. The scientists at the Sea Life Centre sneak bits of fish into Florence’s otherwise-vegetarian diet. And “sneak” is the operative word there — if Florence notices the meat in her food, she won’t eat it.
From the Archives: In Utero Fight Club: How Florence (and other grey nurse sharks) fought her way into existence.
Related: “The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids’ Favorite Meals” by Missy Chase Lapine. 356 reviews, 4.3 stars. Available for Kindle, probably not good for tricking sharks.
Image via the Birmingham National Sea Life Centre