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CoastLine: Shark Brains, Sand Tiger Sharks, and Bonnetheads

Martin Benavides
Pregnant Bonnethead Shark

One shark expert recently described these sea creatures as the most poorly-understood mega-fauna, not just because of popular culture with the movie Jaws in its canon (never mind Shark Week), but because the travel patterns of sharks cover great distances.

On this edition of CoastLine, we, yes, de-bunk some of those pop culture myths – but more importantly, we learn about what kind of shark research is taking place in and around the waters of North Carolina. 

All three of our experts have been obsessed with sharks since they were tiny.  One remembers telling her mother when she was five she wanted to be an ichthyologist who studies sharks.  Another slept with a stuffed toy shark as a child – and dreamed of becoming a marine biologist, and the third, "always wanted to be a marine biologist" and admired the top predator. 


Kara Yopak, Comparative Neurobiologist, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology and Marine Biology at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington



Martin Benavides, Ph.D. student at the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences in the coastal fisheries, oceanography, and ecology lab.  He studiesbonnethead shark movements in the estuaries near Cape Lookout using a combination of tagging and aerial spotting with drones to track his sharks.

Madeline MarensAquarist at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher; researches sand tiger sharks that live near shipwrecks off the coast of North Carolina


Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 4 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.