Serenading Sharks

Ten resolutely celibate sharks at the National Sea Life Center are getting a blast of Barry White in hopes they'll get in the mood for love.

"Can't get enough of your love, babe" and "You're the first, the last, my everything," has been blasting out of the loudspeakers at 10 tope sharks - five male, five female.

With Valentine's Day just two days away, marine scientists at the center said on Tuesday they hoped the so-called "Walrus of Love" would get the love-shy creatures in the mood for romance.

"They haven't been mating, so we are hoping we can encourage them with a bit of romantic music as it's coming up to Valentine's Day," marine biologist Karen Hewlett said.

Curator Josie Sutherland said that staff have been impressed by U.S. research showing fish are not only affected by music but also sensitive to different types.

Researchers at the Rowland Institute for Science in Cambridge, Mass., tested various sounds on koi carp and found that music relaxed them and put them in the mood to breed.

"We think it might work on tope, which are a bit more intelligent," Sutherland said.

She said after the first blast of Barry White, the tope "did seem to be a bit more excited and chasing each other round the tank." But that's as far as they've gotten.

Still, Hewlett said, it will be easy to tell if the music is successful.

"We'll know if they are likely to mate as the male chases the female and tries to bite her back and pectoral fins in the early stages of courtship," Sutherland said.

The tope sharks swim in a showpiece 210,000-gallon tank with dogfish and starry smooth hound fish. The fish, however, have no need for atmospherics. All have been bred successfully at the center.

The music is only being piped into the visitor tunnel that surrounds the tank. "But if we have to, we'll get an underwater speaker and do it that way," Sutherland said.


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