Shark Week 2020 | 'Monster Under the Bridge' reveals how humans and nature collide to create new ecosystems

The Seven Mile Bridge that connects the Florida Keys is one of the longest bridges in the world and home to an exotic ecosystem unlike any other


                            Shark Week 2020 | 'Monster Under the Bridge' reveals how humans and nature collide to create new ecosystems
(Discovery Channel)

Spoilers for Shark Week 2020 | 'Monster Under the Bridge'

When people talk about the impact of human activity on the natural world, it's usually in a negative sense. However, as the Shark Week 2020 special 'Monster Under the Bridge' shows, sometimes when humans and nature collide, it can be the birth of something new. The Seven Mile Bridge that connects the Florida Keys is one of the longest bridges in the world and home to an exotic ecosystem unlike any other. The massive manmade structure acts as an artificial reef, creating the conditions for the development of new species of marine life. 

Due to its location dividing the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, a unique blend of life forms make the bridge their home. And these conditions also allow for the development of great hammerhead sharks unlike any other in the world. During the course of the special, shark ecologist Dr Tristan Guttridge, PhD student Laura McDonnell, and University of Miami Professor of Marine Biology Dr Neil Hammerschlag investigate whether local folklore about a giant hammerhead called Big Moe could be a sign of a new species of shark. Their investigations reveal many things about the beautiful ecosystem growing around the pylons of the Seven Mile Bridge. And of course, a huge number of shockingly large sharks. 

While they don't encounter Big Moe, they get the next best thing: a 17-odd feet long great hammerhead shark that is possibly the biggest in Shark Week history. After analyzing genetic samples, the team discovers that while they don't have enough data to prove that a new species exists, they can prove that the Seven Mile Bridge and the Florida Keys by extension forms an important site for hammerhead sharks, a place where they regularly return during their life cycle.

They also discover that most of the sharks they've encountered in the area are related to one another, suggesting that there may indeed be a family of great hammerheads slowly in the process of evolving into a separate species. Like the Galapagos finches, these Keys great hammerheads could one day be a unique species born out of the meeting of man and nature.

'Monster Under the Bridge' aired on August 12 at 8 pm ET on the Discovery Channel.

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