Hammerhead Shark Species Found Off South Carolina CoastBy: Tina Volpe - November 8, 2013
With the growing list of animal species doomed to extinction, and many already extinct, it’s thrilling finding a brand new species, especially an ocean genus. Amazingly a team of biologists found this new hammerhead shark species just off the coast of South Carolina hence the name given, the Carolina Hammerhead.
The University of South Carolina research team, led by Joe Quattro, made this amazing discovery after collecting 80 sharks, all resembling the scalloped hammerheads. After analyzing their DNA, they found they were not actually scalloped hammerheads, but a distinct cousin.
Although they resemble their distant relative and are difficult to distinguish because of visual similarities, and most likely what took so long to discover, this newfound and rare shark is definitely a new species, and now scientifically known as the Sphyrna gilberti.
There are subtle differences than the more common species upon closer inspection, they are a bit smaller and they have 10 fewer vertebrae than the scalloped hammerhead.
What is astonishing is how few exist, and the rarity of this find, according to Quattro, a biology professor in USC’s College of Arts and Sciences, stating, “Outside of South Carolina, we’ve only seen five tissue samples of the cryptic species and that’s out of three or four hundred specimens.”
Many different female species of shark, including the hammerhead, give birth (pup) along the coast of the Carolinas and live in an estuary for about a year before moving out to the ocean to live out their lives.
“Through its rarity, the new species underscores the fragility of shark diversity in the face of relentless human predation,” said USC writer Stephen Powell.
Unfortunately, with the rise in demand for sharks slated for shark fin soup, known to be a Chinese delicacy and in high demand, 100 million sharks are killed each year. Sadly, the population has dropped substantially; science determined it dropped by 90 percent due to this insensitive desire for the fins of sharks, many times leaving the rest of the animal to die.
The upside to this disturbing news is that the consumption of the soup is declining, in China at least, by an estimated 50 percent over the past few years. Perhaps these mammals will have the chance to increase their population and avoid extinction.