What Happened to the Hammerhead Shark Pups Whose Mother Died on a Maryland Beach?

posted: 07/01/15
by: Danny Clemens

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Divers Fail to Tag a Sevengill

A frightening scene unfolded on a Maryland beach last week: a group of fishermen in Ocean City inadvertently caught a 10-foot hammerhead shark. As bystanders attempted to help the fishermen return the shark to deeper water, the injured animal unexpectedly went into labor, quickly birthing almost 20 pups, each of whom beached repeatedly as the rough surf pushed them back toward the shore.

Deep hammerhead shark
Shane Gross/iStock

"We were frantically trying to put them back into the ocean as fast as we could, but they kept washing back up onto the beach," bystander Jess Rutherford told local newspaper The Dispatch. "Finally, we started wading into the ocean further so we could get throw them out behind the breakers because the surf was pretty rough that night. Once we were getting them behind the breakers, they stopped washing back up and we didn't see them anymore."

The female hammerhead eventually "[succumbed] to the stress of being beached and giving birth", according to witnesses, and was dead by the time that authorities arrived to assess the situation.

But what will become of the 20-some pups, who entered the world in a frighteningly traumatic moment and now find themselves rudderless following the death of their mother?

They'll be just fine -- for many species of shark (including hammerheads), the mother-offspring relationship ends once the pups are born, after which the mother swims off to live her life.

"[Shark pups] receive no protection from their mothers and have to feed and fend for themselves," shark biologist Paul Clerkin tells Shark Feed.

Although it might seem heartbreaking, the large litter of pups will make it just fine.

Click here to learn more about the shark life cycle in Sharkopedia, our exhaustive guide to everything shark!


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