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'Carolina' Hammerhead Named After U.S. Region Where it Breeds

Aug 12, 2013 03:52 PM EDT

A new species of shark has been named after the region of the United States where it was found.

In 2006, National Geographic reported on a new, but unnamed, species of hammerhead shark that was discovered off the coast of South Carolina.

While the new shark does not appear to have an official, scientific name, it is unofficially being called the "Carolina hammerhead," according to The State, a newspaper in Colombia, S.C.

Naming and further classifying the new shark may have taken so long because its features are nearly identical to the scalloped hammerhead, a common shark in the Atlantic Ocean that can grow up to 10 feet long.

According to The State, the only discernible difference between Carolina and scalloped hammerheads is their number of vertebrae.

"Carolina hammerheads have 83 to 91 vertebrae, while scalloped hammerheads have 92 to 99 vertebrae," The State reported.

Joe Quattro, a biology professor at the University of South Carolina, told the Associated Press in 2006 that the shark was "cryptic" and "genetically distinct."

Quarttro suspected South Carolina's waters were the primary nursery grounds for the sharks.

Researchers discovered the new species while studying the DNA of the scalloped hammerheads, where they noted a "significantly different genetic structure" despite the new sharks physical similarities to the scalloped hammerhead, National Geographic reported.

At the time, the AP reported that the shark would be classified under the genus "sphyrna" but that until further investigation was completed the new shark would be referred to as the "cryptic species."

While evidence from waters off Brazil and the Indian Ocean suggest the newly-named sharks may occur in waters throughout the world, the number of Carolina hammerheads is thought to be small, The State reported.

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