Wednesday, 21 August 2013

New shark species discovered off SC coast

Scientists have discovered a new species of shark in the ocean off South Carolina and have named it for the region where it was found.

The “Carolina hammerhead,” thought to reach 11 feet long and weigh about 400 pounds, has been identified cruising the waters at Bull’s Bay north of Charleston, St. Helena Sound near Beaufort and in the Charleston harbor.

But biologists suspect these hammerheads occur worldwide, since evidence of them has been found in the past from Brazil to the Indian Ocean. The number of Carolina hammerheads is thought to be small.

“It is a distinct species,’’ said William “Trey” Driggers, a marine scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries division.

Driggers, a 45-year-old Sumter native and Clemson University graduate, was among a team of scientists with NOAA, the University of South Carolina, the University of New Orleans and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources who made the discovery after more than a decade of research.

Much of the work was done in the laboratory of USC professor Joseph Quattro, he said. Veterinarians in Columbia also collaborated on the discovery.

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