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Here's Why You Never See Great White Sharks in Aquariums

Published On 10/12/2016 Published On 10/12/2016

Although many aquariums all over the world feature spectacular shark attractions like giant glass tunnels through shark tanks, few -- if any at all -- can say they're currently home to one of the ocean's most ferocious predators, the Great White Shark. Think about it: have you ever seen a Great White in captivity? Well, a recent video from Vox helps to explain why this is the case and likely won't change any time soon.

According to the six-minute explainer, aquariums have long attempted to keep the toothy killers confined to display tanks, only to find that the Great Whites die within days. Perhaps the only institution to successfully feature a Great White Shark was the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which after a decade of planning became the first aquarium to keep one of the sharks for more than 16 days and ultimately released it into the wild about six months later.  

Aquariums have made dozens of attempts since the 1970s to display a captive great white shark. Most of those attempts ended with dead sharks. By the 2000s, the only group still trying was the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which spent a decade planning its white shark program. In 2004, it acquired a shark that became the first great white to survive in captivity for more than 16 days. In fact, it was on display for more than six months before it was released back into the ocean. The aquarium has since displayed several juvenile Great White Sharks for similar lengths of time, but ultimately ended the expensive program in 2011 due to criticism over injuries the sharks sustained in the tanks, the video explains. It just wasn't working out, especially for the sharks.

The problem boils down to how Great White Sharks thrive in the wild. There, they're able to roam bodies of water as they please, which allows them to breathe better than they would in confined spaces. Oh, and there aren't any giant glass walls around for them to crash into, too. Basically, the creatures are just not meant to survive in even the biggest tanks aquariums can build for them. For a more detailed explanation, check out the full video above. Oh, and try not to play the Jaws theme in your head the whole time. 

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Tony Merevick is Cities News Editor at Thrillist and loves going to the aquarium. Send news tips to news@thrillist.com and follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick.

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