1. Headline
  1. Headline
Save Our Seas Foundation / Peter Verhoog
It's very hard to tell the scalloped hammerhead shark, above, apart from the new "cryptic" species — only differences in their DNA and number of vertebrae reveal their true identities.
OurAmazingPlanet
updated 3/27/2012 12:54:58 PM ET 2012-03-27T16:54:58

Scientists recently confirmed that endangered scalloped hammerhead sharks have a fishy twin — a newfound species, still unnamed, that is distinct, yet very closely resembles the threatened sharks.

The case of mistaken identity indicates that scalloped hammerhead sharks are even more scarce than once thought, according to some researchers.

Since it's very hard to tell the two species apart — only differences in their DNA and number of vertebrae reveal their true identities — it's likely that previous assessments of scalloped hammerhead sharks exaggerated their numbers because the counts likely included the look-alike sharks.

"It's a classic case of long-standing species misidentification that not only casts further uncertainty on the status of the real scalloped hammerhead, but also raises concerns about the population status of this new species," Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center professor Mahmood Shivji said in a statement.

  1. Science news from NBCNews.com
    1. Cosmic rays may spark Earth's lightning
      NOAA

      All lightning on Earth may have its roots in space, new research suggests.

    2. How our brains can track a 100 mph pitch
    3. Moth found to have ultrasonic hearing
    4. Quantum network could secure Internet

Shivji's team at the Florida university first discovered the new hammerhead species in 2005 when examining the DNA of sharks thought to be scalloped hammerheads based on their physical appearance. A research team from the University of South Carolina independently confirmed the existence of the new species in 2006.

Combined genetic assessments from both institutions show that at least 7 percent of the sharks in U.S. waters originally thought to be scalloped hammerheads turned out to be the newly identified species. 

Now, researchers have found the unnamed shark, a so-called "cryptic" species, swimming in waters off the coast of Brazil, thousands of miles from where the species was initially discovered. The find indicates the cryptic species is widespread, and may be facing similar pressure as its nearly identical cousin.

Shark populations around the world have declined precipitously in recent decades, with millions of the iconic fish falling victim to the grisly practice of finning.

Shark fins fetch a high price in China, where they are used for shark fin soup.

Shark finning is largely banned in the United States, and many individual states have banned the trade and possession of shark fins. However, evidence from around the world indicates that finning continues to claim millions of shark lives each year.

Follow OurAmazingPlanet for the latest in Earth science and exploration news on Twitter @OAPlanet  and on Facebook.

© 2012 OurAmazingPlanet. All rights reserved. More from OurAmazingPlanet.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Courtesy of Robyn Ross

    Needles and dating: 8 things I wish I'd known before freezing my eggs

    10/24/2014 2:50:23 PM +00:00 2014-10-24T14:50:23
Breaking news
  1. Police respond to shooting report at Washington school

    Police were seen escorting students from Marysville-Pilchuck High School, near Seattle, which was in lockdown.

    10/24/2014 6:33:28 PM +00:00 2014-10-24T18:33:28
  1. Alex Wong / Getty Images

    ‘Fortunate and blessed’: Ebola-infected nurse Nina Pham to go home

    10/24/2014 3:05:30 PM +00:00 2014-10-24T15:05:30
  1. John Bazemore / AP file

    There goes 'Honey Boo Boo': TLC cancels reality series amid scandal

    10/24/2014 4:38:39 PM +00:00 2014-10-24T16:38:39
  1. Samantha Okazaki / TODAY

    8 things we learned about the latest Duggar pregnancy

    10/24/2014 5:14:25 PM +00:00 2014-10-24T17:14:25
  1. Courtesy of Sidne Hirsch

    How a pair of glittery blue stilettos helped her kick cancer's butt

    10/24/2014 6:17:42 PM +00:00 2014-10-24T18:17:42