Friday, November 15, 2013

New Species of Shark Found Off of South Carolina

Hello everyone. Tonight's blog will be relatively short, but contains an amazing discovery. If you have been following this blog from the beginning, you may recall a blog that mentioned that a new species of hammerhead had possibly been discovered. Well scientists have confirmed that the possibility is actually a reality. Just a few short days ago, scientists confirmed that a new species of hammerhead had in fact been discovered. The new species has been appropriately named the Carolina hammerhead. These sharks share an incredible similarity to their cousin, the scalloped hammerhead, as far as looks are concerned.

Take a wild guess which one is labeled as a picture of a Carolina hammerhead....... If you picked the first picture you guessed correctly. To the naked eye, these sharks are virtually indistinguishable. So what is the difference you may ask. The Carolina and scalloped hammerheads have different genetic signatures and perhaps even more telling is the fact that the Carolina hammerhead has 10 less vertebrae than the scalloped hammerhead, making it slightly smaller. The shark also seems to for some reason be far more common off of South Carolina than anywhere else in the world. Out of between 300 and 400 sharks that were studied around the world, nearly all of the ones deemed Carolina hammerheads came from, well South Carolina. The discovery has caused some new concern about the future of scalloped hammerheads though.

For such a long time now, people thought that scalloped and Carolina hammerheads were the same animal. In the study that was done to distinguish the species, over 50 of the 80 sharks that were caught were Carolina hammerheads and not scalloped. The population status of the scalloped hammerhead is now more questionable than ever before. Scientists believed before this discovery that scalloped hammerhead populations dropped by about 90% worldwide. Now with the distinguishing of the Carolina hammerhead we really have no idea as to how many  scalloped hammerheads actually exist. Scalloped hammerheads are an Endangered Species who have gained several protections over the past few years. With this new species being unprotected for now I will be interested to see if and what fisherman will do with this discovery. I would not be surprised to see fisherman in certain parts of the world kill scalloped hammerheads claiming them to be Carolina hammerheads. It's not like they are distinguishable to the average fisherman like the scalloped and great hammerhead are.

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You can tell the difference between these two sharks pretty easily from fin sizes to overall body shape and length. Again, between the Carolina and scalloped, this really isn't possible for the average person. With as rare as this species appears to be, I don't think it would be a crazy statement to say that these sharks should quickly become as well protected as other species of hammerheads worldwide. Even where these animals haven't been discovered yet. They are not exclusive to the coast of South Carolina or the United States in general. They have been spotted in other parts of the world so they by all rights deserve the same protections as the other hammerheads. Without a shadow of a doubt, this newly discovered species of shark has a slow reproductive rate and as a result is very vulnerable to overfishing.

The discovery of this shark shows that the oceans of the world continues to change. Look what year it is. 2013. It is 2013 and we are still finding new species of sharks. Just a couple years ago it was a hybrid blacktip shark and now a new species of hammerhead. Imagine if we lived in a world where these animals weren't being completely overwhelmed and destroyed. Odds are we'd have a much healthier ocean than we do now. Odds are that we would have an even more diverse ocean than we do now, not just with sharks, but other animals as well. Probably most important of all, our oceans would be secure for the long term. We wouldn't be sitting here questioning what the future is going to hold for the seas. We wouldn't have to even think about what could happen when the last shark dies. We would be able to look at the ocean for what it is. That of course being one of the most amazing things that this planet has to offer. Which brings me to a small announcement.

Coming soon there will be a special blog done here by my girlfriend. She will be doing a special blog on bluefin tuna. I don't have any details other than that on it yet, but if I hear anything from her as to what else it may be about I will gladly pass it on to you guys. Also, I will be taking a mini break for Thanksgiving from November 26th-30th so there will be no blogs posted during that time. However if something big comes up I'll be sharing it in the Facebook group. My next blog will probably continue the recent trend of shark activity! Thanks once again for reading!

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