Newly discovered shark off the SC coast

The Carolina Hammerhead is now known to be swimming off the SC coast.

By Sonya

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Marine biologists with the Department of Natural Resources are continuing to learn more about a newly discovered shark called the Carolina Hammerhead.

This species is almost identical to the Scalloped Hammerhead.

"These two diverged a very long time ago on the order of hundreds of thousands of years because they are very distinct genetically," said DNR Marine Biologist Bryan Frazier.

But it wasn't until recently that scientists discovered they were two different species.

"You actually can't tell the difference between the two if you have them in your hand and the only morphological difference they really found that are reliable is actually counting vertebrae and you have to do that by X-ray," said Frazier.

It's also easier to find these new species thanks to genetics.

"We just take a small piece of tissue from one of the fins of the shark and can put it in a vial and run the genetics on it, so it's a non-lethal way of sampling the individual and still letting the individual go," said Frazier.

Fin clips also make the research process much better.

"It's less expensive and it's easier to do, so through that process we are actually discovering that things are a little different then we originally thought," said Frazier.

But there is still lots to learn about this shark off the South Carolina coast.

"We do know that the scalloped Hammerhead can get 8 to 10 feet, so we are thinking based on the similarities that the Carolina Hammerhead is probably going to be of similar size," said Frazier. "We are also going to look at things like diet to try to determine what the differences are between these two species, what composition of each species we have because this is going to be really important in terms of managing the population moving forward."

Marine biologists aren't sure how many of each species are out there, but think Carolina waters may be filled with more of the Carolina Hammerheads.

Scalloped Hammerheads currently face the threat of overfishing. They are endangered in other parts of the world, but not in the U.S.