Rare 14-foot pregnant hammerhead shark washes up on Alabama beach with 40 pups; Biologists take samples and speculate on the cause of death. An unexpected discovery was made by beach-goers when a 14-foot great hammerhead shark washed up on an Alabama beach earlier this month.
Credit: City of Orange Beach Coastal Ressources
- The pregnant shark was assisted by visitors who helped move it closer to shore before the City of Orange Beach Coastal Resources arrived.
- The beach staff brought the shark to shore and lifted it onto a pickup truck.
The rare hammerhead was found to have 40 pups, which surprised the various agencies contacted, including the biologist at Mississippi State University Marine Fisheries Ecology.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species listed great hammerheads as critically endangered in 2018.
While the cause of death for this particular shark remains unknown, MSU biologists took samples from the female shark, including organs such as the heart, liver, and spleen, and found no signs of trauma.
The biologists suspect the shark may have died due to fishing mortality, but this is impossible to determine.
The team also extracted DNA from the shark’s and pups’ fin clips for genetic population structure studies. The pups will be preserved and donated to local classrooms for educational purposes.
Overall, this experience was unique for the Orange Beach officials and MSU biologists.
Summary of the Hammerhead Shark
The great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran) is a large species of hammerhead shark. They can grow up to 20 feet (6 meters) long and weigh up to 1,000 pounds (450 kg). Hammerheads are typically found in coastal waters and are known for their unique, hammer-shaped head.
This allows them to have a broader range of vision than other shark species.
Great hammerheads are apex predators and feed on prey, including fish, squid, and crustaceans. Unfortunately, they are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. This is due to overfishing and bycatch in commercial fisheries, habitat loss, and degradation.
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