Making room for bonnethead sharks born at Aquarium

Filed under: Fort Fisher by fortfisher on Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher said hello and goodbye to several animals on Sept. 15, as the Aquarium family grew.

A female bonnethead shark gave birth to a litter of pups, seven females and one male. The babies measured approximately 10 inches at birth. The mother measured 43 inches with a pre-birth weight of 16.3 pounds.

Aquarium staff collected the female bonnethead off the coast of South Carolina on Sept. 1. A subsequent veterinary examination and ultrasound at the Aquarium confirmed the bonnethead pregnancy. Her gestation period, however, was unknown. Husbandry staff monitored her progress.

After the live birth the pups were transferred to their own tank for special care and attention. Newborn sharks nurtured in this way have significantly higher chances of survival than those born in the wild. Aquarists feed and monitor the new bonnetheads multiple times daily.

To make room for the shark pups, three yearling loggerhead turtles were released to their natural habitat in the Atlantic a month ahead of schedule. The animals, who helped educate visitors at the “Let’s Talk Turtle” exhibit, all received pre-release physicals. They weighed approximately 8 pounds, with shell size measurements of nearly one foot. Three new loggerhead hatchlings aquired on Aug. 12 will now greet visitors at the exhibit.

Each summer, the Aquarium receives several loggerhead hatchlings to help educate the public about the threatened species. The Aquarium typically releases the yearling loggerheads in October or November of the following year.

This is the second live birth of bonnetheads, a member of the hammerhead family, at the Aquarium. The new bonnethead babies are not currently on exhibit.