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Adult sharks typically range in length from 2 to 4 feet and weigh up to 24 pound. However, there have been reports of bonnetheads up to 5 feet long.
Bonnethead sharks can be found in the Atlantic Ocean ranging from North Carolina to Brazil and in the Pacific Ocean ranging from Southern California to Ecuador. These sharks have even been seen as far north as southern New England.
Looking very similar to their Great Hammerhead cousins, bonnethead sharks are easily recognized by their flattened head with smooth rounded lobes between the eyes. There first dorsal fin is located further down the body, starting behind the pectoral fins. Colorations can vary from brown to gray or even slightly green/gray in color. However, they do exhibit countershading with the dorsal (top) area lighter than the ventral (bottom) area.
Frequenting coastal regions, bonnethead sharks are found in shallow waters, including estuaries and bays. These sharks are commonly found around grass, mud or sandy areas.
Swaying their head side to side to locate prey, bonnethead sharks will hunt a variety of invertebrates (such as crabs, clams, and octopus) as well as small fish.
Some large sharks, such as tiger and lemon sharks, prey upon bonnetheads.
Male and female bonnethead sharks become sexually mature around 2 years of age. These sharks give birth to live young (they do not lay eggs) with an average gestation period of 4-5 months and average litter size of nine pups. Pups are born in the late summer and early fall, but research in Florida has shown that mating actually occurs in November. The female then stored the sperm until the spring when fertilization occurs.
Q: Do sharks always need to swim?
A: “Some species of sharks, like the bonnethead, do need to swim in order to breathe oxygen from the water. However, some species such as the nurse shark can pump water over their gills, so are able to stay in one spot."
Q: How many species of sharks are there?
A: “There are over 360 species of sharks in the world's oceans, with new species being discovered every year.”
Q: Do all sharks attack people?
A: "No, all sharks do not attack people. Shark attacks are rare and only a handful of shark species have been know to attack without being provoked. You have a better chance of being struck by lighting or being attacked by a deer than you do by a shark. In fact more than 100,000,000 sharks are killed every year, there were less than 70 shark attacks in US waters in 2009."
Q: How does a shark find its food?
A: “Sharks have mutliple ways to find food. Some will use their sense of smell or hearing to find food. However, sharks have the ability to detect maagnetic field that prey give off, all without ever having to see the animal. They use special pores called Ampullae of Lorenzini to sense these fields."
Q: Is it true that sharks are covered in teeth?
A: "The skin of sharks are covered in special scales called denticles. These scales are modified teeth which help to make the animal more hydrodynamic in the water.”
Q: Can a shark ever live in freshwater?
A: “Yes, the bull shark is capable of swimming hundreds of miles up a river.”
Watch here to learn how staff create a window into the world of a developing shark embryo.
Species of the Month Podcast: How do sharks reproduce?
Join Mystic Aquarium's Kelly Matis and MaryEllen Mateleska as the talk about the ways that sharks will give birth to their young.
Kelly and MaryEllen want to hear from you! Send questions, comments and suggestions for future podcast topics to [email protected].
Scientific Name: Sphyrna tiburo
Size: African penguins range from 18 to 25 inches tall and weigh up to 11 pounds
Range/Distribution: The only penguin to breed in Africa, the African penguin ranges from Namibia to South Africa. Young penguins have been known to migrate north and west along the coastline and are found between Southern Angola, Namibia, and sometimes found off Gabon, Congo, and Mozambique, but generally reside in South Africa.
Appearance: The African penguin has a robust, torpedo-shaped body with black feathers on their back, flippers, and head while white feathers cover their front with the exception of horseshoe-shaped black stripe on the chest. Following the penguin’s first few molts a white stripe will develop around its cheek and throat. These birds have a bare patch above their eyes to assist with regulating their body temperature.
Habitat: When not hunting for food in the water, African penguins are found along rocky shores or brushy coastal areas.
Prey: African penguins feed on 25 species of fish, such as sardine and anchovy but also prey on squid and krill. A penguin may eat up to one pound of food or up to 14% of their weight.
Predators: African penguins face predation by gulls, feral cats and mongoose while nesting on land, while sharks and fur seals hunt African penguins in the water.
Life Span: The African penguin may live up to late 30 years in an aquarium or zoo but averages of 15-20 years are seen in the wild populations.
Mating Behaviors: There are no set breeding seasons for African penguins, however, most penguin pairs are monogamous and will remain together over several breeding years. The male will prepare a nest by digging a shallow burrow in sand or in brush using guano (penguin waste) and any materials nearby to complete the nest for the female to lay two eggs. Both the male and female share the nesting and chick duties, keeping the young safe from predators and warm temperatures. The chicks will hatch between 38 and 42 days and will leave the nest when they are between 60 to 130 days of age.
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