'Ocean Wonders: Sharks!' on display at New York Aquarium

CONEY ISLAND, Brooklyn (WABC) -- Sharks are one of the most feared yet misunderstood creatures in the ocean, and Eyewitness News got an up close look -- and a lesson -- at the New York Aquarium on Coney Island.

Herring was just one thing on the menu at the Canyon's Edge, part of the "Ocean Wonders: Sharks!" exhibit.

It's where we got an behind the scenes view of what can only be described as a well-choreographed dance during feeding time.

"Each one of these has a different nutrient profile and a different moisture profile," aquarium director Jon Forrest Dohlin said. "And sometimes, it's individual choice, animal likes specific kinds of food."

He explained that the feedings, which happen three times a week, also give the team of keepers a chance to make sure everything is in order -- like checking that Blue the mischief sea turtle is healthy, along with Otis the sand tiger shark, who is 8 1/2 feet long, and Ginger the nurse shark, who weighs 214 pounds.

"We're recording who's eating, who's not, what social setting is," Forrest Dohlin said.

Things begin when Cris tosses in a fish appetizer, signaling it's time to come to the table. There are different stations, one for each species.

There are three different types of sharks, with Otis and Ginger joined by Freddie Mercury. Freddie is the smallest shark, a sandbar shark, currently about 4 feet long and just under 50 pounds.

He's a juvenile and will get much bigger. Sandbar sharks live about 75 years, and it takes up to 15 years for them to reach maturity.

Paul, named after Free/Bad Company lead singer Paul Rodger, is the largest sandbar shark at 6.7 feet long and 146.5 pounds.

Each feeding pole is color coded so the sharks know where to go.

All of the sharks are in the waters in our area, but Forrest Dohlin says of the more than 400 species, only three pose a threat to humans -- the bull, tiger and great white sharks, which sometimes confuse humans for their next meal.

They typically feed on animals roughly human size, like seals, so they can mistake people swimming near the shore line -- especially in a wet suit -- for food.

"If you're in amongst their prey and you're the size of their prey and wearing a wet suit, so you look like their prey," Forrest Dohlin said. "And they may come and investigate with their teeth, because that's what they do."

But not at the aquarium, which is a place to learn more about the captivating creatures that take your breath away.

For more information on the exhibit, visit nyaquarium.com/exhibits/ocean-wonders-sharks.

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