Bonnethead Gives Birth at Aquarium

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A small bonnethead sharks swims in its tank.

Bonnethead Gives Birth at Aquarium

Dec 14, 2010


Media Contact: Amy Kilgore, 910-458-8257 ext. 211 or Hap Fatzinger, ext. 217

Kure Beach, NC – Aquarist Marc Neill was doing regular maintenance work above the Cape Fear Shoals exhibit on Friday, October 29, when he spotted a white blur out of the corner of his eye. He quickly realized it was a baby bonnethead shark and that a female was giving birth inside the 235,000 gallon tank.

Husbandry and education staff quickly sprung into action. They had to remove the tiny sharks before they became prey to other larger fish in the tank. From the top of the tank they used dip nets to scoop out the babies and divers quickly suited up and jumped into the water to assist. In all, three baby bonnethead sharks survived. The mother and offspring are resting in a holding area behind the scenes at the Aquarium.

The bonnethead shark, Sphyrna tiburo, is the smallest of the hammerheads and averages less than 4 feet in length. Common summertime residents to the shallow estuaries and near shore habitats of the Carolinas, bonnetheads have been observed chasing shrimp onto mud flats and then lunging onto the mud to grasp the stranded prey. It is not uncommon in areas such as Bulls Bay, SC to observe dozens of bonnetheads on a summer day feeding in the shallow waters. As the water temperatures begin dropping in early fall the bonnetheads follow the food supply south to warmer climates.

When added to the exhibit earlier in the summer Aquarium staff was unaware of her pregnancy. “We are all very excited about this birth event and the cute new additions to our animal population. Captive birthing success is a mixture of opportunity and quality animal care and our husbandry staff is very proud as a result of this and the many other successful births at our facility,” said Hap Fatzinger, Aquarium Curator.

The babies feasted on a diet of mole crabs and shrimp and grew so well, they are now on exhibit in Shadows on the Sand, located on the lower level of the Marine Building.

NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher is located just south of Kure Beach, near the mouth of the Cape Fear River, on U.S. 421. The site is less than a mile from the Fort Fisher ferry terminal. Hours: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s days). Admission: $8 Ages 13-61, $7 Ages 62 and up, $6 Ages 3-12, Free for children 2 and under, NC Aquarium Society members and pre-registered North Carolina school groups. General information:

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