New migration data produced by tagging hammerhead sharks in the Atlantic should help scientists to protect at least one of the 10 hammerhead species at risk of extinction.
Researchers from Nova Southeastern University, the Universities of Oxford and Rhode Island and Fisher Finder Adventures have been studying the migration patterns of smooth hammerheads.
Sphyrna zygaena, which can grow up to 4m long, has been one of the least understood of the large hammerhead species because scientists usually have difficulty in finding specimens for study. However, the researchers were able to satellite-tag the fins of juveniles off the US Atlantic coast and tracked them in near real-time for up to 15 months.
“Getting long-term tracks was instrumental in identifying not only clear seasonal travel patterns but, importantly, also the times and areas where the sharks were resident in between their migrations,” said Ryan Logan of NSU, first author of the newly published research.
“This study provides the first high-resolution, long-term view of the movement behaviours and habitats used by smooth hammerhead sharks.”
The sharks were found to migrate between New York coastal waters in summer and North Carolina in winter, seeking warmer surface waters and food sources. The areas were “prime ocean real estate for these sharks and therefore important areas to protect for the survival of these near-endangered animals,” said NSU’s Mahmood Shivji, who oversaw the study.