A new species of shark has been discovered by scientists off South Carolina. The new species has been named after the region it was found. “Carolina hammerhead”, thought to reach 11 feet long and weigh approximately 400 pounds has been spotted cruising the waters around Charleston. Scientists believe however, that this species of hammerheads occur worldwide, since evidence of them has been found previously from Brazil to the Indian Ocean.
The new species was identified by extensive laboratory research. From appearance the Carolina hammerhead looks very similar to the well-known scalloped hammerhead – except for one major distinction; the Carolina hammerheads have fewer vertebrae than its shark cousins. Carolina hammerheads have 83-91 vertebrae, while scalloped hammerheads have 92 to 99 vertebrae.
The discovery of this new shark species has important conservation implications. With sharks threatened globally and scalloped hammerhead numbers falling in many areas, it is likely that Carolina hammerheads are even more endangered. This discovery shows how there is still so much to be learned about the Earth’s oceans and why we must protect biodiversity before species are lost that we never even knew existed!