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New hammerhead shark species found off South Carolina

The new species of hammerhead shark looks virtually identical to the scalloped hammerhead, but is genetically different and contains about 10 fewer vertebrae, according to South Carolina researchers.

New hammerhead shark 2013 11 08Enlarge
A scalloped hammerhead shark, which looks virtually identical to the newly-discovered species called the Carolina hammerhead. (Peter Verhoog/Save Our Seas Foundation/Courtesy)

A team of South Carolina researchers had made a startling discovery: a new species of hammerhead shark.

While new species aren't rare these days, a find this large is. And especially in an area as well-known as the waters off South Carolina.

The Carolina hammerhead, or Sphyrna gilberti, looks virtually identical to the scalloped hammerhead.

But it is genetically different and contains about 10 fewer vertebrae than its closest cousin, University of South Carolina ichthyologist Joe Quattro told CNN.

The team's findings, published in the journal Zootaxa, shows the new species is quite rare.

 "Outside of South Carolina, we've only seen five tissue samples of the cryptic species," Quattro said in a release from the University of South Carolina. "And that's out of three or four hundred specimens."

The rarity of the find itself underscores the fragility of shark diversity in the face of human predation, according to scientists.

Populations of scalloped sharks, like other shark species, have plummeted in the past few decades by up to 90 percent, Quattro says.

In August, a new species of "walking shark" was discovered near a remote Indonesian island.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/science/131108/new-hammerhead-shark-species-found-south-carolina