Found far off shore in warm tropical waters throughout the world, there is one shark that sets itself apart from other shark species in more ways than one – especially in appearances: The Hammerhead shark. Due to their ability to survive in sandy plains, kelp forests, fresh as well as ocean waters, and intertidal waters, they get around quite easily and you can catch a glimpse of them almost anywhere.
The Hammerhead Shark, also known as Sphyrnidae, is one of the most recognizable shark species out there due to its wide, flat, T-shaped head and wide-set eyes. They use their oddly-shaped heads to improve their ability to find prey; their wide-set eyes provide superior visual range to most other sharks, and they have highly specialized sensory organs spanning across their heads, so they are able to more thoroughly scan the ocean for their food.
Though they have a more mellow temperament than other sharks, the Hammerhead takes hunting for food very seriously, and can locate food more easily due to their increased sense of smell. Their diet consists of small fish, squid, sting rays, crabs, and even other small sharks.
Why The Strange Head?
As mentioned above, sting rays are prey for the Hammerhead, and happen to be this shark’s favorite meal. Because sting rays are completely flat and therefore easily able to camouflage themselves on the ocean floor, Hammerheads need to be able to easily capture them. This is where the shape of their head comes in.
The skin of a shark is very unique in that it is covered in a tooth like structure called dermal denticles, and Hammerhead sharks are no exception. Of all the facts about Hammerhead sharks we’ll be going over, this one is one of the coolest – Hammerheads have ridges on the crowns of their dermal denticles which help lead scented water to its nares, or nostrils, that helps them easily smell their prey. Pair this with their sensory organs to pick up on a sting ray’s electrical pulses, and you’ve got the perfect predator for a sting ray. They use these advantages to swim directly above the ocean floor, swaying its head side to side like a sting ray metal detector. Sting rays beware!
How Many Species Are There?
Most people think that there is just one type of Hammerhead shark, but we’re here to give you the facts about Hammerhead sharks, and the fact is there are actually nine different confirmed species of Hammerhead sharks out there!
First, there’s the Great Hammerhead Shark, which is by far the largest species with the largest recorded length reaching 20 feet long – that’s as big as George Washington’s nose on Mount Rushmore! Though a 20-foot Great Hammerhead has been found, the average Great Hammerhead is only about 11 feet long, and the females tend to be larger than the males, though the males mature a bit earlier.
Next is the Smooth Hammerhead Shark, which can be distinguished by a single notch in the center of its head. This species has a tall, sickle shaped dorsal fin and plain pectoral fins tipped with black, and measure anywhere from 8 to 11 feet long on average.
The Scalloped Hammerhead Shark is another species in our journey through facts about Hammerhead sharks, and is one of the most commonly found species in coastal regions. They are typically olive, bronze or light brown in color with a white belly, and on average reach a length of 13 feet.
The fourth recorded species of Hammerhead is the Whitefin Hammerhead Shark. The Whitefin is similar in appearance to the Scalloped Hammerhead, but has a more narrow-bladed, broad head and on average reach a length of 9 feet.
The Smalleye Hammerhead Shark is up next, and is much smaller than its other Hammerhead counterparts, with the average length of this species reaching only about 5 feet. They have a broad and arched head that’s shaped a bit like a mallet, characterized by a deep indentation at its center.
Next are the Bonnethead and Scalloped Bonnethead sharks, which are significantly smaller ranging at 2 to 5 feet long on average, with the females growing a bit larger than the males. They are greyish-brown in appearance with dark spots and a white belly, and need to swim continuously to provide fresh oxygen to their gills.
The Scoophead shark is another Hammerhead species to mention in our facts about Hammerhead sharks, and can grow to an average length of 3 to 5 feet. They are greyish-brown in coloration with a light underside, and sport a relatively short snout.
And finally, we have the Winghead shark. The Winghead is distinguished from other species of Hammerhead by its especially long and slender head lobes, and relatively small frame averaging only at around 4 feet. They are typically grey or light brown in color, with a light underside.