Scientists discover possible hammerhead shark nursery in Ecuador's Galapagos

FILE PHOTO: A hammerhead shark swims close to Wolf Island at Galapagos Marine Reserve

QUITO (Reuters) - A team of researchers has discovered a potential breeding ground for smooth hammerhead sharks off an island in Ecuador's Galapagos archipelago, in what would be a "very rare" sighting, the national park said in a statement on Thursday.

The so-called "nursery" would be the first breeding site for smooth hammerheads, or Sphyrna zygaena, in the Galapagos if confirmed, the park said.

The smooth hammerhead is one of nine known species of hammerhead shark. It is considered "vulnerable" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's list of threatened species.

Scientists on a Greenpeace expedition toured the Galapagos Marine Reserve several weeks ago, spotting a young female hammerhead off of Isabela Island, the Galapagos' largest island, and tagging her.

Researchers will continue to monitor the shark to confirm that she was in a breeding area.

The Galapagos Islands with its unique wildlife was critical to British scientist Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. It is home to many species not found elsewhere such as giant tortoises, flightless cormorants and marine iguanas.

Many are also in danger of extinction.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Kylie Madry; Editing by Josie Kao)