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Georgia Aquarium

Bonnethead Shark Gives Birth at Georgia Aquarium

Georgia Explorer Gallery welcomes pups

Atlanta, GA (September 21, 2006) – On Thursday, a bonnethead shark at the Georgia Aquarium gave birth to 10 pups. The pups were born on public display in the touch pool outside of the Georgia Explorer Gallery. Each time a pup was born, Aquarium guests cheered. The birthing process of the ten pups took approximately one hour. The Aquarium has been anticipating the birth for a few weeks and expect another pregnant bonnethead shark to give birth any day as well. Bonnethead sharks, a smaller species of the hammerhead shark, are known to birth to a large number of pups to ensure that some will survive. Two of the pups were stillborn and the other eight were swimming normally for newborn pups. According to Tim Binder, Director of Husbandry at the Georgia Aquarium, a 40-50 percent survival rate for pups is typical with this species. "The fact that in under a year we're already welcoming births is truly wonderful," said Executive Director Jeff Swanagan. "Giving birth in an exhibit is a great sign that the animals feel comfortable and are living as they would in their natural environment." Once the pups start to feed and are stabilized the Georgia Aquarium husbandry staff will transfer them to an offsite quarantine facility. Until the newborns are moved from the exhibit, the touch pool will be for looking and photographing only. ABOUT GEORGIA AQUARIUM Georgia Aquarium opened in Atlanta, Georgia on November 23, 2005, as the world's largest aquarium. Georgia Aquarium is a $250 million gift to the people of Georgia from Bernie Marcus, co-founder of The Home Depot, and his wife Billi, through the Marcus Foundation. The Aquarium, which has welcomed more than three million visitors in 9 months, is overseen by a nonprofit corporation run by a board of directors. The mission of Georgia Aquarium is to be an entertaining, educational and scientific institution featuring exhibitions and programs of the highest standards, offering engaging and entertaining visitors' experiences and promoting the conservation of aquatic biodiversity throughout the world. The Georgia Aquarium is committed to continually working to provide the best guest experience. It is the goal of the Georgia Aquarium to educate audiences of all ages, while promoting a fun and entertaining learning experience that inspires guests to appreciate the world's aquatic biodiversity and to take conservation action. For additional information on Georgia Aquarium, visit www.georgiaaquarium.org. ABOUT BONNETHEAD SHARKS Range/Habitat Found in western Atlantic Ocean, from North Carolina to southern Brazil, including Cuba, the Bahamas and northern Gulf of Mexico. In the east Pacific, they are found from southern California south to Ecuador. The bonnethead is one of the most abundant shark species along the northern Gulf of Mexico coast. It is found on sandy bottoms, seagrass beds, lagoons and the reef face and is common in bays and estuaries; it is a bottom dweller. It is usually found in depths ranging from 33 - 262 feet (10 - 80 m). Physical Characteristics The bonnethead is one of the smaller species of hammerhead sharks. The head is more mallet shaped than the other hammerheads and its' snout is broadly rounded, resembling a shovel, without the indention found in the front margin of other hammerheads. It has two dorsal (top) fins with the first dorsal fin being relatively higher than the second. It has short pectoral fins. At birth, it measures about 13-15 inches (33-38 cm). An adult can measure up to 5 feet (150 cm). Must swim continuously to receive oxygen from the water. Its' color ranges from gray to brown, with a lighter colored underbelly. Diet/Feeding The bonnethead feeds on invertebrates, crabs, shrimp, mussels, bivalves, snails and small fish. It has small, sharp teeth at the front of the jaw for grasping either its mate or prey and flat teeth in the back to crush hard shells before swallowing. It feeds by creating depressions in the sand to expose invertebrates and small fishes Conservation Status The bonnethead shark is not endangered or threatened. It is hunted for human consumption and processed for fishmeal. Additional Information The bonnethead is relatively harmless to humans and extremely shy and difficult to approach. Unlike most sharks, bonnetheads often form single sex schools or schools of similar sized individuals, Typically they travel in groups of 5-15 although schools can number in the thousands. This shark migrates to warmer waters in the winter and cooler waters in the summer. The female is known to move into shallower water before giving birth, often in estuaries. Bonnetheads are viviparous, meaning they give live birth, and birth approximately 8-16 pups. This shark buries in the sand during the day and forages at night, usually in seagrass beds. The bonnethead swings its head from side to side. It is thought that the bonnethead moves its head to chemically taste the world. It has electro and chemistry sensors located on the "bonnet". They are also thought to swim swinging their head from side to side to assist in their vision since their eyes are on the side of their head.