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Unveiling Rarity: Exploring the First Smooth Hammerhead Shark Nursery in the Galápagos.

An undershot of a great hammerhead shark
The largest of hammerhead sharks is the great hammerhead.

There are nine species of hammerhead sharks worldwide in the Sphyyrnidae family. The Great Hammerhead is the largest, reaching lengths of up to 20 feet and weighing as much as 1,000 pounds. These sharks derive their name from their distinctive head shape, which is flattened, forming two lobes that extend out to the sides.

In a groundbreaking discovery, scientists on a Greenpeace expedition within the Galápagos Marine Reserve have stumbled upon what might be the first 'smooth hammerhead' shark nursery in the region. The sighting of several young pups is a remarkable find, given the rarity of smooth hammerheads (Sphyrna zygaena) in the area, and infact in the world, especially since they've never been tracked until now. This newfound nursery, located in a secluded bay at Isabela Island, hints at a potential hotspot for the species' reproduction and early life stages.

The expedition's lead scientist, Alex Hearn from Universidad San Francisco de Quito expressed astonishment at the discovery, noting the significance of the site as a possible breeding ground for these elusive sharks. Paola Sangolquí, Marine Coordinator at Jocotoco Conservation Foundation, underscored the importance of safeguarding such habitats within the Galápagos Marine Reserve, advocating for concerted conservation efforts and international collaboration.

Confirmation of the bay as a nursery site requires meeting specific criteria, including a higher abundance of shark pups compared to surrounding areas, sustained residency of the sharks, and evidence of successive generations utilising the site. Unraveling why smooth hammerhead pups favour this particular location could unlock insights into their behaviour and habitat preferences, crucial for their conservation.

A noteworthy development from the expedition was the successful satellite tagging of a subadult smooth hammerhead, affectionately named "Alba" after actress and ocean advocate Alba Flores. Tracking Alba's movements will offer valuable data on the species' behaviour outside the protected confines of the Galápagos Marine Reserve, shedding light on potential threats they face in open waters.

a school of scalloped hammerhead sharks
Scalloped hammerheads. Smooth hammerheads are rare and not often photographed.

Sharks serve as critical components in maintaining the ecological balance of marine environments, acting as both regulators of prey populations and indicators of ecosystem health. The ongoing tracking efforts by independent scientists aboard the Arctic Sunrise contribute vital information toward shaping future conservation strategies for hammerhead sharks and other migratory species.

The Galápagos Islands boast a breathtaking array of marine life, making it a haven for underwater enthusiasts and conservationists alike. From iconic hammerhead sharks to vibrant coral reefs and playful sea lions, the diversity found in these waters is unparalleled. 

A banner of shark guardian Galapagos expedition
Join us on our exciting 2026 expedition.

As we prepare for our upcoming expedition in 2026, Shark Guardian invites you to delve into the rich marine ecosystems of the Galápagos and witness firsthand the wonders of this extraordinary underwater world. Join us in exploring the pristine habitats and learn about protecting the diverse array of species that call the Galápagos home. Shark Guardian offers you an incredible opportunity to explore the Galapagos on our most ambitious expedition yet in August 2026. 

Not only will you witness incredible marine life, but you'll also have expert shark guides on hand to educate and assist you throughout your journey. For more information, please contact us;


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