A known type of hammerhead shark has been discovered to be a distinct species. It was assumed for many years that the hammerheads in South Carolina waters at Bull’s Bay north of Charleston, St. Helena Sound near Beaufort and in the Charleston harbor, were all scalloped hammerheads. However, it was discovered that some specimens had 83 to 91 vertebrae, but scalloped hammerheads have 92 to 99 vertebrae. Therefore they were declared a separate species and named Carolina hammerheads. Aside from the different vertebrae, it is almost impossible to tell the difference between them.
Both can grow up to eleven feet in length and weigh up to four hundred pounds. Hammerheads typically are no danger to humans, just like most sharks. Great white sharks are the most dangerous, but even when they attack it is thought they are mistaking a person for a seal or are biting to see if there is a meal opportunity, not because they have an appetite for humans. Scalloped and Carolina hammerheads are not the largest of their kind in South Carolina waters. Great hammerheads are larger, and they too are typically of no danger to humans.
The numbers of Carolina hammerheads may be very small, due to several factors such as habitat destruction and habitat loss. Scalloped hammerheads have been driven down to such low numbers that they are considered endangered. They are commonly caught for finning, a barbarous practice that is not even of any true necessity. Shark fins are cut off and the rest of the shark is thrown back in the water to die in great pain.
It is tragic for the Carolina hammerheads that they bear so a close resemblance to the scalloped hammerheads because of the overfishing. Shark meat is high in mercury, so it probably should never be consumed, especially be pregnant women.
Many shark species are apex predators, meaning that they are at the top of the food chain. The provide ecological benefits such as keeping numbers of smaller fish in check and consuming carcasses. Scalloped hammerheads generally feed on sardines, mackerel and herring, so it’s a good bet that Carolina hammerheads do too.