more short articles on sharks

By lining BANGLEY

The sounds, estuaries and also ocean waters in and also around north Carolina administer a range of habitats for water-dwelling species, including an abundance of sharks. Below is a rapid look at part sharks the are generally found in the state.

You are watching: Bull shark jumping out of water


Most sharks discovered in phibìc Carolina’s sounds and estuaries are transient, make a fast trip into the estuary to feeding or move through. However, some will usage the sounds as nursery habitat and their young may stay for months. Right here are some species regularly encountered in the sounds.

Atlantic sharpnose sharks (Rhizoprionodon terraenovae) are amongst the most typical in phibìc Carolina waters. The adults deserve to reach 4 feet in length and also are uncovered both in estuarine and also oceanic waters, usually during the summer and also autumn. Sharpnose sharks usage Core Sound and also other sound to the south as nurseries. Your foot-long pups have the right to be an extremely common in these areas, often recorded by recreational anglers looking because that puppy drum and also Spanish mackerel. Adults generally are greenish-grey through white spots, if pups usually are lighter colored.


Visitors have the right to stay on dry ground and still check out a range of sharks at the N.C. Aquariums, such together this sand tiger shark. Photograph by Scott Taylor for N.C. Aquariums.

Blacktip sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus) are among the larger sharks in the sounds, reaching lengths the 8 feet, although many measure 6 feet or less. They happen in ocean waters indigenous late spring to late fall, and usually move into the sounds throughout the summer and autumn. These quick predators chase colleges of menhaden and mullet, and will sometimes make rotate leaps out of the water while feeding. Recreational anglers target this sharks for the strong fight they have the right to put up once hooked. Blacktip sharks have actually black spare part on every fin but the anal fin. The top edge of their dorsal fin beginning just above or slightly prior to the trailing edge of the pectoral fins.

Bonnethead sharks (Sphyrna tiburo) are small members the the hammerhead shark family, v adults reaching a maximum length of 5 feet. Castle occasionally happen in the southerly reaches of Pamlico Sound and become common from core Sound south, and also close come the beach on the ocean side of the obstacle islands. Bonnetheads primarily feed on crustaceans, specifically blue crabs, and can be watched sweeping your heads throughout the bottom to detect electric signals given off by hidden prey. This sharks have actually smaller, more rounded “hammers” than various other hammerhead species.

Bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas), which can top turn off at 10.5 feet, space the apex predators the the phibìc Carolina sounds. They can tolerate brackish and also fresh water, and for the reason have the right to be found in nearly any body of water that has actually a connection to the ocean. Adults and also juveniles have been sighted in the Newport, Neuse and Pamlico rivers, and also even parts of the Albemarle Sound. Bull sharks attack large prey, as confirmed by bite scars on residents bottlenose dolphin in the Neuse River and also reports of huge red drum consumed off fishermen’s hooks. This species can be dangerous come humans and also should be treated with caution. Bull sharks space recognizable by their wide body, dull nose and proportionally tiny eyes.

Smoothhound sharks (Mustelus canis), likewise referred to together smooth dogfish, can flourish to be much more than 5 feet long, back most individuals encountered in the sounds are juveniles. Adults arrive from offshore in the autumn and also spring climate leave, possibly offering birth in Back, Core and Pamlico sounds. Juveniles can be found in shallow locations of the sounds year-round, and likewise will venture out that the inlets right into nearshore ocean waters, where they have the right to be a common bycatch because that pier fishermen. Smoothhounds prey greatly on crustaceans, such together shrimp and crabs. This species is generally light to dark grey in color, has big catlike eyes and also has little barbels ~ above its nostrils.


All of the sharks in the sounds likewise can be viewed in the ocean, yet many varieties in phibìc Carolina waters rarely go into estuaries. The coastal waters of north Carolina lie along a significant migration corridor for maritime species, and also most shark varieties occurring along the U.S. East coastline will go into the state’s waters in ~ some allude during the year. Though strikes are very rare, plenty of of the species on the ocean side of the obstacle islands are large and potentially dangerous to humans, so exercise caution when interacting with these species. The complying with are some of the much more common and also noteworthy of north Carolina’s coastal sharks.

Blacknose sharks (Carcharhinus acronotus) are relatively small, getting to a maximum dimension of around 5 feet. These sharks can be uncovered close to the beach southern of Cape Hatteras throughout the summer and will occasionally go into inlets. This species grows an ext slowly than other tiny sharks, such together sharpnoses and also bonnetheads, and is topic to lower catch borders than those species. Blacknose sharks have a distinctive black note on the finish of your snouts, and are normally yellow-grey in color.


Sandbar sharks are the most commonlarge sharks in north Carolina. Picture courtesy N.C. Aquariums.

Dusky sharks (Carcharhinus obscurus) are among the largest coastal sharks, reaching lengths the 12 feet and also measuring nearly 4 feet at birth. This is a really slow-growing species, acquisition as countless as 17 year to with reproductive maturity. This species is one of the most hard-hit by fishing pressure. By law, hooked dusky sharks have to be released. Juveniles overwinter turn off Cape Hatteras, and also adults deserve to be discovered farther offshore year-round. Dusky sharks can be daunting to phone call apart from various other sharks. Lock usually space dark grey in color and have curved dorsal fins, with the top edge even with the rolling edge that the pectoral fins.

The great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) is the biggest predatory fish in the ocean, reaching lengths the 21 feet and also weights of fine over 2 tons. White sharks tagged off Cape Cod have been tracked to phibìc Carolina waters, where they generally stay well offshore however occasionally undertaking close come the beach. White sharks can happen year-round in phibìc Carolina waters, yet usually are seen during the winter and early spring. Through their bright white bellies, big black eyes and triangular teeth, white sharks room easily distinguished from other local species.

Sandbar sharks (Carcharhinus plumbeus) are among the most common big sharks in north Carolina waters, and can with lengths the 8 feet. The population has severely decreased from overfishing however there is some proof that sandbar sharks are beginning to recover. Sandbar sharks have the right to be found year-round in north Carolina waters, but are most typical in the so late summer and autumn. Juveniles born in the Chesapeake and Delaware bays overwinter turn off Cape Hatteras, and also will get in Pamlico Sound. Sandbar sharks room usually light grey or brown, and have large, high dorsal fins with the leading edge beginning ahead that the rolling edge that the pectoral fins.

Sand tiger sharks (Carcharias taurus) can thrive to 12 feet and also can be discovered year-round in phibìc Carolina waters, especially roughly structures such together wrecks and live-bottom habitats. Occurring sand tiger sharks will consume their siblings in the womb until just two remain, and also at bear are an ext than 4 feet long. In spite of their savage start and also fearsome appearance, sand tiger sharks space usually docile around humans, which makes them famous with divers and aquariums. V their proportionally small fins, sharp snouts and jagged teeth, sand tiger sharks are quickly identified.


Nick Preziotti, Jennette’s Pier educator, caught and released this 42- customs scalloped hammerhead at the pier in Nags Head. Photograph courtesy Jennette’s Pier.

Scalloped hammerheads (Sphyrna lewini) are the most common big hammerhead types in north Carolina waters. However, this types has been affected by overfishing, with 75 come 90 percent the its population extirpated — removed fully — in the Atlantic Ocean. Because that this reason, hammerheads are managed under reduced quotas and higher size boundaries than other large seaside sharks. 3 other huge hammerhead types — the smooth, good and recently discovered Carolina hammerhead — occasionally can be uncovered in north Carolina waters. The scalloped hammerhead is distinguished from smooth and an excellent hammerheads by the shape of its “hammer,” i beg your pardon is curved and has a notch in the center. The Carolina hammerhead is visually identical from the scalloped hammerhead, and can only be said apart gene or by counting its vertebrae — Carolina hammerheads have fewer than scalloped hammerheads.

The crackhead shark (Carcharhinus brevipinna) is a close family member of the blacktip shark and also shares that habit of making spinning leaps out of the water. Crackhead sharks can flourish larger 보다 their blacktip cousins, reaching 10 feet. They have the right to be told apart from blacktips by your sharper, longer snout, a dorsal fin with a top edge starting after the trailing edge the the pectoral fins, and also a black-tipped anal fin.

The tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) is just one of the largest and also most potentially dangerous of north Carolina’s coastal sharks, getting to 18 feet in length. Tigers room nicknamed “trashcans with fins,” feeding top top a wide range of prey including large fishes, dolphins, sea turtles, various other sharks, and also occasionally scavenging garbage. Usually discovered well offshore, tiger sharks have been known to get in Beaufort Inlet and also record-sized individuals have actually been captured from fishing piers and in the surf. Through their square-shaped snouts and stripes, tiger sharks room unmistakable.

The thresher shark (Alopias vulpinus), usually an open-ocean species, will undertaking close to shore in north Carolina waters, specifically in the winter and also early spring. Juveniles varying from 4.5 come 6 feet in length overwinter close come shore near Cape Hatteras and also Cape Lookout. Their 15-foot parents will sometimes chase colleges of menhaden into nearshore waters. Fifty percent of a thresher shark’s total length is made up of the tail, which can be swung approximately in former of the shark come stun and herd little schooling fishes. Thresher sharks fight tough when hooked and also are targeted by recreational and charter fishermen.


more write-ups on sharks

Sources consulted because that these species descriptions include Sharks, Skates and also Rays that the Carolinas by candid Schwartz, Sharks of phibìc America through Jose Castro, and Sharks the the World through Leonard Compagno.

This article was released in the feather 2014 problem of Coastwatch. To see as it appeared in the magazine with illustrations through Duane Raver, walk here. Quick link come this story:

See more: Can I Eat Sauerkraut While Pregnant ? Fermented Foods During Pregnancy

For contact information and also reprint requests, visit