Critically endangered hammerhead shark found dеаd on US beach was pregnant with 40 pups

The giant hammerhead, which was 14 feet long, washed up on an Alabama beach. The expecting mother was later dissected, but the cause of death is still unknown.

A necropsy (animal autopsy) has shown that a large hammerhead shark that washed up dead on a beach in Alabama lately was carrying 40 unborn pups. What killed the expecting woman, though, remains unknown.

On April 20, a great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran) female was found in the shallows close to Orange Beach. She was around 14 feet (4.3 meters) long. The carcass was discovered by the city's coastal resources team after a group of onlookers hauled the lifeless behemoth onto the sand and called for help, according to a post on Facebook by city officials.

The deceased shark was in such good shape that authorities contacted MFE experts at Mississippi State University, who performed a necropsy on the shark the next day.

40 pups, each measuring around 1.5 feet (0.4 meters) in length, were being carried by the hammerhead, the study discovered. According to local officials, the mother and her offspring were probably already dead when they washed up on the coast.

Although it was really unfortunate that the shark went away, city authorities said that the team's discoveries might significantly advance our understanding of this species' reproductive biology.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, great hammerhead sharks are classified as severely endangered. The number of remaining is not known with certainty, although it is thought to be declining annually.

The scientists dissected and inspected the mother shark's heart, liver, esophagus, stomach, spleen, kidneys, and pancreas during the necropsy. Representatives of MFE posted on Facebook that none of these body parts showed any indications of trauma or illness. Additionally, they sent out samples of the animal's fins, muscle tissue, and vertebrae for further laboratory examination.

Although the shark's stomach was empty, which is often a warning sign during a necropsy, MFE officials indicated that this was to be anticipated because pregnant female hammerhead sharks frequently go without food for several months.

Although MFE researchers were unable to identify the cause of death, they believe it may have been connected to fishing.

The authors said, "We know that great hammerheads are especially prone to the physiological effects of capture stress, more so than most other shark species," adding that pregnancy can exacerbate this physiological stress.

A failed shark pregnancy last year was similarly connected to stress brought on by capture. A dead juvenile thresher shark (Alopias vulpinus) washed ashore on a British beach in May 2022. The shark's mother is believed to have aborted the shark, which was not completely formed, when she was accidently caught and released by fishermen.

The education system will provide the newborn hammerhead sharks a second chance at life even though they will never be born. According to MFE staff, the pups will be maintained and given to nearby classrooms to assist teach kids about sharks and reproduction.