Catch is a big inside story

Published June 30, 2006

 A great hammerhead shark caught off Boca Grande last month was impressive, not only for its 3-foot-wide hammer, 14-foot length and 1,280 pounds. It also was carrying 55 shark pups. Scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota said this week that the litter was the largest ever found inside a hammerhead shark. Fifty-two of the pups were nearly full-term and three were undeveloped. Experts previously thought hammerheads gave birth to 20 to 40 pups at a time.

 Mote officials said the unique shark specimen, given to institute by the fisherman who caught it, will be valuable in further study of the species. But they also expressed sadness that the shark carried so many unborn pups that were near birth. Game fishing officials are still trying to determine whether it was a record catch. The Florida Museum of Natural History Web site lists a great hammerhead caught off Sarasota as the largest ever, and it weighed 991 pounds. The status of great hammerheads in the wild is uncertain.