Ah yes, the Hammerhead Shark. Take one look at this amazing fish and you’ll know how it got its name. The scientific name for its hammerhead shaped head is called Cephalofil.
There are 9 different species of Hammerheads:
- Winghead Shark
- Scalloped Bonnethead
- Whitefin Hammerhead
- Scalloped Hammerhead
- Great Hammerhead
- Smalleye Hammerhead
- Smooth Hammerhead
The largest of them all is the Great Hammerhead Shark. When fully grown, it gets to 6 meters in length (20ft) and weighs 170 kilograms (600 pounds). Most other species only grow to 4 meters (13ft).
The lifespan for most Hammerheads is between 25 and 35 years. It’s likely that over time, they are beginning to live longer lives. The reason for this is currently unknown.
The eyes of this shark are placed on th outer edges of the hammer. This allows them a vertical 360 degree view, which means the Hammer head shark is able to see both above and below quite easily. Unfortunately, this eye placement causes a huge blind spot directly in front of their nose!
This fish is well known for its ability to make very sudden and sharp turns. Not only does the hammer at as an organ of balance, but its body seems to be specifically designed to twist and bend.
Believe it or not, the Hammerhead has the ability to sport a nice tan! They are one of very few animals who tan from the sun. This happens to the shark because Hammerheads are often cruising in shallow water or near the surface for extended periods of time.
Hammerhead Sharks love tropical, warm waters from all over the world. They mostly stay along continental shelves and coastlines, but on occasion they are found in the deep ocean cruising near the surface.
As with all other shark species, Hammerhead Sharks have a special sense of feeling using electro receptors. This an organ called the ampullae of Lorenzini. Sharks are able to pick up very small electrical pulses that all living things emit. In fact, they can sense the beating heart of a human from several miles away!
For the most part, these sharks are mavericks, thinking and acting for themselves and by themselves. This is especially true for Great Hammerheads. But Scalloped Hammerheads are often observed building large schools of 100 or more individuals. It is believe that these schools are largely for protection from the opposite sex. Females will be bombarded with males when left alone. But when swimming with others, the females can select what males are allowed nearby and what males aren’t. This phenomenon draws some tourism from shark enthusiasts, especially at the Great Barrier Reef or Galapagos Island.
These sharks are hunters of the night. Compared to other predators, they have very small mouths. Because of this shortfall, many become bottom hunters with a preferred prey of rays, shrimps, squids, small fish, and even other shark species. The Great Hammerhead is feared by smaller Hammerhead species due to frequent cannibalism.
But what makes this shark so unique is its head, right? The head acts as a sort of “metal detector” as it travels over the Ocean floor. Since much of its pray hides beneath the sandy floor, the Hammerhead traces the sea bed and “scans” for living creatures it can eat.
Hammerhead Sharks are Viviparous, which means pups grow inside the female shark, similar to humans. Unlike humans, the mother gives birth to 20 to 50 live pups at once. The reproductive process is still quite a mystery in the scientific communities. Studies are currently ongoing to learn more about this amazing animal.
Relationship with Humans
Unfortunately, many species of Hammerhead Sharks are at a high risk of extinction. Hammerhead fins are considered a delicacy in many countries. Fisherman can sell these fins for very high prices, so many times a Hammerhead is captures, has its fins removed, then is dumped back into the Ocean. Of course, without fins, the shark is unable to swim and subsequently dies. Humans are the #1 threat to all species of Hammerhead Sharks.
Attacks on humans are extremely rare. Only 3 of the 9 Hammerhead species (Great, Scalloped, and Smooth Hammerheads) have ever attacked a human. The vast majority of the time, these sharks are safe for divers in open waters. Like Reef Sharks, they give warning signals before attacking, such as a series of wild contortions. Trained divers know these signs and how to deal with an agitated Hammerhead Shark.