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Creation 36(2):15, April 2014

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Vegetarian shark

The nurse shark that uses her razor-sharp, serrated teeth to pulp broccoli and cabbage, celery and lettuce

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Illustrated by Caleb Salisbury vegetarian-shark-cartoon

Sharks must eat meat, right? Wrong! A 1.8-metre-long (6-ft) nurse shark at the Birmingham National Sea Life Centre (UK) has turned vegetarian.

Since 2009, Florence (as her handlers call her) has shunned any form of meat or fish. Instead she eats broccoli and cabbage “and any other greens she can steal from fellow ocean tank resident Molokai the green turtle.”1

Her handlers are concerned that she is not having a proper diet, so they “use every trick they can devise” to try to get her to eat meat. For example, they hide pieces of fish inside her celery, or in hollowed-out cucumbers, and between the leaves of lettuces.

“And it has to be well hidden,” explains Sea Life curator Graham Burrows, “because if she realises it’s there she’ll ignore the offering and wait for the strictly vegetarian option.”

Florence evidently started out life as a meat-eater, but became vegetarian four years ago after surgery to remove a rusty hook from deep inside her mouth.

“She was off her food for a good while when she first arrived from Florida with three other nurse sharks,” explained Burrows. An ultrasound scan soon showed the problem. “The hook had obviously been there for years and was badly rusted which is what made her so ill. She was put on antibiotics and made a swift recovery.”

No doubt the trauma2 of the fish-hook experience is a factor in Florence’s vegetarianism.

Vegetarian-shark

But we should also remember that her shark ancestors 6,000 years ago in the pre-Fall world didn’t eat fish either. Sharks developed their fish-eating habits only after Eve gave Adam the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and he ate it (Genesis 3:6). That action brought death, pain, carnivory and diseases into the world.3 So Florence’s capacity for plant-eating shouldn’t be too much of a surprise (even though she and other ‘vegetarian carnivores’ in today’s post-Fall world might need to augment their plant diet with fish or meat from time to time4).

Indeed, knowledgeable observers of sharks today know that Florence’s plant-eating ability is not unique.

“Nurse sharks do occasionally graze on algae in the wild, and we weren’t surprised when Florence first stole some of Molokai’s greens,” Burrows recounted. “We just weren’t expecting her to go completely veggie. We wouldn’t want her to be an embarrassment to the other flesh-eating hammerheads and black-tipped reef sharks in the ocean tank.”

References and notes

  1. Wrenn, E., Meet Florence, the world’s first vegetarian shark who prefers celery sticks and cucumber to fish, dailymail.co.uk, 18 May 2012. Return to text.
  2. Fish feel pain, Creation 26(4):7, 2004; creation.com/fish-feel-pain. Return to text.
  3. For further details and discussion see ‘How did bad things come about?’ Chapter 6 of CMI’s The Creation Answers Book, chapter available as a pdf at creation.com/cab6. Return to text.
  4. Wieland, C., The cat who refuses to eat meat, creation.com/vegcat, 28 April 2009. Return to text.

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