Scientists discover new kind of shark in northwest Atlantic

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Saturday, June 10, 2006

A new species of hammerhead shark has been found in the northwest Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Carolina.

According to scientists, the species, classified as genus Sphyrna, looks much like the scalloped hammerhead, but is "genetically distinct" from the scalloped hammerhead. University of South Carolina Biology Professor Joe Quattro, who discovered the shark, describes it as "cryptic"; it is described as a rare find. This is the ninth such species of the hammerhead shark to be discovered. Scientists have named the species a 'cryptic species' because no formal name has been selected for the shark.

According to Dr. Quattro, "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." Scientists say the shark only breeds off the S. Carolina coast and that it is at a risk for extinction. "Management plans are needed to ensure that these sharks are not adversely impacted so that we can learn more," added Dr. Quattro.

So far, there are only 454 other named and classified species of shark in the wild. Two other scientists, Dr. Jim Grady at the University of New Orleans and Dr. Trey Driggers with the National Marine Fisheries Service, are also among the biologists to help with the discovery.