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New England Aquarium Opens Shark & Ray Touch Tank

BOSTON (CBS) -- Boston is now home to the largest shark and ray touch tank on the east coast. The New England Aquarium opened the new exhibit Monday and staff says already people are enjoying it.

The tank, officially called The Trust Family Foundation Shark & Ray Touch Tank, gives visitors a chance to touch half a dozen types of sharks, and half a dozen types of rays.

"I think it will be really fun for kids and families to come in here and reach their hands ever so gently in the side of the tanks and discover these wonderful animals," said Bud Ris, the aquarium's president and CEO.

Web Extra: Video from the touch tank

Ris says he hopes through the tank people will learn that sharks are not always what people think. "They are not instruments of terror in the ocean. In fact, most sharks and rays are quite benign and play a very important role ecologically," he said.

Megan Moore, an aquarium visitor educator said the exhibit will help teach people how important these animals are to the ecosystem in which they live.

"It gives you a much stronger connection with these animals, and makes people care more," she said.

The Trust family made a donation of $1.5 million to make the touch tank possible. The animals in the exhibit are from water climates in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Within the exhibit there are shallow areas and deeper areas, and Ris says it's set up to encourage the animals to stay out by the public.

Some of the types of sharks and rays are the cownose ray, bonnethead shark, and epaulette shark.

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