PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. – A baby tiger shark named after a Brevard County school mascot is heading toward the Space Coast.
News 6 partner Florida Today reported Viper, who was tagged this March by the marine science research group OCEARCH, was named in honor of the mascot at Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School. Tracking data showed Viper is near the Canaveral National Seashore.
Because Viper is young, he typically swims close to the shore of the Southeastern United States. When Viper was last measured by scientists, he was 7.6 feet long and weighed 157.6 pounds. By the time he is an adult, Viper will gain at least 700 pounds and grow at least three feet longer. The largest male tiger sharks are more than 13 feet long and weigh more than a ton.
Viper is getting a warm welcome to the Space Coast from teachers and students at Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School, who are proud to have him as a namesake and excited to see him pinging nearby on the OCEARCH shark tracker.
"All the kids are excited that he's coming close to us," said Jennifer Cotton, a marine science teacher. "All of us are joking that he's going back-to-school shopping."
Cotton and her students took a field trip this March to the research group's boat when it docked in Jacksonville. She said OCEARCH surprised them with the news that a shark would be named after their school.
"We pretty much had a party," she said. "It was a big deal. They were screaming, and it was awesome, because at this point, they were just really invested into OCEARCH."
Cotton teaches her students about marine biology by having them analyze shark tracking data to decipher their migratory patterns, and this year she took her students to meet scientists so they could discuss their class project with experts.
Tommy Eberhardt, 16, said the field trip made him more passionate about ecology and biology, two subjects he already took great interest. Having a shark named after his school was a pleasant surprise.
He said that although he has always cared about the ocean and its creatures, having a firsthand experience of marine science was a very moving experience, which made him more intrigued than ever about the possibility of pursuing a career in science.
"It definitely made me understand more," he said. "It just furthered my knowledge."
To see where Viper is swimming at any given time, follow his official Twitter profile @SharknamedViper, check out his OCEARCH profile at ocearch.org/profile/viper or download the OCEARCH smartphone app.