Rare hammerhead shark found dead in Orange Beach was pregnant, with 40 pups

Published 10:04 pm Saturday, April 22, 2023

A rare great hammerhead shark that washed up dead in Orange Beach last week was found to have been pregnant with 40 shark pups, researchers said Saturday.

The 14-foot great hammerhead shark was found dead on Thursday. Orange Beach Coastal Resources responded and were able to recover the shark and store it on ice until a team of experts from Mississippi State University could arrive and perform an necropsy on the animal.

In doing so, they found the shark was female and was carrying 40 pups.

“While it was very sad that it passed, we were excited about the rare opportunity of seeing a Great hammerhead in such good condition,” Coastal Resources officials wrote on social media. “We immediately started contacting various agencies to see who had availability to come 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.”

“While it is sad, it is very rare to find a large pregnant female, and the data collected will be tremendously helpful in learning about great hammerhead fecundity.”

The cause of the shark’s death was not immediately determined.

Globally, the great hammerhead is considered critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, but U.S. federal authorities have declined to list the shark as endangered.