According to a news release from the aquarium, aquarist Marc Neill was performing some maintenance work above the Cape Fear Shoals exhibit back in October when he realized a female bonnethead shark was giving birth in the 235,000 gallon tank.
Staff members quickly removed the tiny sharks before they became prey to other larger fish in the tank. Three baby bonnethead sharks survived.
The mother bonnethead shark was added to the exhibit earlier in the summer, but staff members were not aware she was pregnant.
Thriving on a diet of mole crabs and shrimp, the babies are now grown enough to be on display in the Shadows on the Sand exhibit.
Facts about bonnetheads (courtesy of the NC Aquarium):
The bonnethead shark 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.