On Thursday, April 20, a deceased 14-foot Great hammerhead shark washed ashore in Orange Beach, Alabama. A few individuals on the beach pulled the shark to shore and quickly contacted Coastal Resources. The staff from the organization arrived at the scene and were able to get the shark off the beach.
Coastal Resources immediately started contacting various agencies to see who had availability to come and gather data from this unique specimen. Dr. Drynom from Mississippi State University Marine Fisheries Ecology, a researcher who focuses on coastal sharks, sent a team to perform a necropsy on the shark. A necropsy is an autopsy performed on an animal to determine the cause of death.
While the cause of death has not yet been determined, the researchers discovered that the Great hammerhead shark was pregnant with 40 shark pups. The discovery of a large pregnant female is very rare, and the data collected will be tremendously helpful in learning about Great hammerhead fecundity. Fecundity refers to the ability of an organism to produce offspring in a particular time period.
The staff at Coastal Resources are very thankful that they were able to get the shark off the beach, protected from the elements, and iced down within a few short hours of the initial call. This was a unique and valuable experience for the staff and researchers, and they are grateful to have played a small role in this case. The discovery of a pregnant Great hammerhead shark has provided important insights into the reproductive biology of this species, which will help in conservation efforts to protect them in the future.