A hammerhead shark has fascinated vacationers in Ocean City over the past two days by swimming close to the shore.
Lifeguards called swimmers out of the water in the area of the sightings on Wednesday and Thursday. When the shark moved on, swimmers were allowed to go back into the ocean.
The shark, which officials believed to be injured, moved out of the ocean and into the bay Thursday afternoon.
We asked Dr. Jim Gelsleichter, marine biologist with the University of North Florida, to provide us with five things you should know about hammerheads:
1. THERE ARE MANY DIFFERENT TYPES
The shark spotted in Ocean City is called a scalloped hammerhead. It is one of nine species of hammerheads, but only two or three species are regularly found on the East Coast.
2. THEY CAN SWIM CLOSE TO THE BEACH
Large sharks frequently come close to the shore, especially during their feeding time. Some might also come near the beach to give birth.
3. THEY CAN GROW VERY LARGE
Biologists say the scalloped hammerhead in Ocean City is about 300 pounds and eight feet long. That is a good-sized hammerhead, but other species can grow to be much larger.
4. THEY DON'T FEED ON HUMANS
People may be fearful of hammerheads due to their size and the strange shape of their head, but they are not very interested in humans. Still, the safest bet is to stay out of the water when a shark is in the area.
5. THEY ARE ENDANGERED
Scalloped hammerheads are a critically endangered species worldwide. Their population has been depleted significantly because of the increased demand for their fins, which have been used to make shark fin soup.