New Species of Hammerhead Shark Discovered

According to BBC News and Science a new species of hammerhead shark has been discovered of the coast of South Carolina. The new species is related to the scalloped hammerhead pictured below.

Dr Joe Quattro became curious about a common coastal shark called the scalloped hammerhead shark while studying coastal fish.
Genetic studies revealed that there was a second “cryptic” species – that is, “genetically distinct” from the scalloped hammerhead.


The shark appears to breed only in waters off South Carolina, although adults swim into waters off Florida and North Carolina.
“If South Carolina’s waters are the primary nursery grounds for the cryptic species and females gather here to reproduce, these areas should be conservation priorities,” said Dr Quattro.

From The Charleston Post and Courier:

The new hammerhead is a “cryptic” species, meaning it can’t readily be distinguished from any other 10-foot-long, notched-tooth hammerhead prowling the bottoms of a beach, bay, river or inlet near you.
The differences are mostly in the genes, although the new species has fewer vertebrae in the spine than the standard scalloped hammerhead. The new shark is apparently unique to South Carolina – “pups” have been found only in St. Helena Sound or Bulls Bay.
In fact, Quattro’s research found the vertebrae difference was first documented in the 1960s, in a Smithsonian Institution collection hammerhead that had been pulled offshore Charleston in the 1800s.
The new shark is very rare compared to the scalloped hammerhead, itself one of the species of the troubled shark thought to be declining “precipitously,” Quattro said, due to overfishing, bycatch and other threats.

From the Miami Herald comes the above picture and info on how the shark was discovered:

Shivji and his NSU colleagues are at the forefront of using genetics to identify sharks exploited in the international fin trade, which is how they stumbled on the previously unknown species of hammerhead. In trying to develop a DNA forensic marker for scalloped hammerheads, they collected 143 samples of Sphyrna lewini from around the world. They were puzzled to find that the test worked on all the sharks except for three, which were caught by recreational anglers off Fort Lauderdale.
At first, the scientists thought something was wrong with their forensic marker. But more extensive testing on the three South Florida sharks showed their DNA was completely different from all other scalloped hammerheads caught locally and around the world, suggesting a separate species.
”The genetic difference is greater between the new cryptic species and the regular scalloped hammerhead than between the geographically separate populations of the scalloped hammerhead,” Shivji said.

At the same time researchers at the University of South Carolina came to the same conclusion concerning sharks caught in South Carolina….

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