The Whitefin Hammerhead Shark: The Amazing Facts You Never Knew!

There are ten different species of hammerhead sharks, each with unique characteristics. There are many interesting hammerhead sharks facts about all these species, but one of the most fascinating species is the Whitefin Hammerhead. The hammer is not as big as the great or smooth hammerhead sharks, so it doesn’t always draw the same fascination as it’s cousins. However, once you learn these amazing facts, the Whitefin Hammerhead might become your favorite type of hammerhead shark.

VIDEO: Learn About The Amazing Hammerhead Shark



    • Once thought a separate species, the whitefin hammerhead (sphyrna couardi) was grouped with the scalloped hammerhead (sphyrna lewini) in 1986.




  • Whitefin hammerhead sharks are the most commonly observed species of hammerhead shark. So scientists and researchers have been able to gather a lot of information about their species.





  • Like all hammerhead sharks it has a distinctive hammer on it’s head. The eyes are nostrils are located at the ends of the hammer. These hammers are thought to enhance smell and electroreception. It also helps with lift, speed, and maneuverability.





  • Whitefin hammerhead sharks have smaller mouths than other species of sharks and they tend to swallow prey whole, only taking bites when they prey is especially large.





  • Whitefin hammerhead sharks also have 4-5 denticles, teeth that protrude outside the mouth to help them grab onto prey quicker and more effectively.





  • Typically, whitefin hammerheads are olive, light brown, or bronzed-colored with a smooth white underbelly.





  • Despite their name, whitefin hammerhead fins are usually dark but lighten with age.





  • Whitefin hammerheads also have an unusually straight pelvic fins for a shark. It also does not have a mid dorsal ridge.





  • Whitefin hammerheads are found all over the world, on the coast of every continent except Antarctica.





  • They are migratory moving toward the poles during warm seasonal changes and closer to the equator during cold seasons.





  • These hammerheads prefer warm, temperate, and coastal waters and depths of no more than 1,600 feet.





  • Whitefin Hammerheads use the enhanced geomagnetic signature of upwelled lava, know as ocean “magnetic highways” to navigate the ocean.





  • Often they ride the currents, rather than swim to preserve their energy for hunting.





  • The largest whitefin hammerhead recorded grew up to 12 feet. Though there is evidence they can reach 14 feet and up to 336 pounds.





  • Females grow larger than males averaging around 8.2 and 180 pounds. Males tend to grow between 4.9 and 5.2 feet and weigh an average of 64 pounds.





  • Whitefin hammerhead sharks have complex mating rituals that include hunting, chasing, and a synchronized dance.





  • Whitefin hammerheads reproduce through internal fertilization. The male sex organ is know as a “clasper” and is inserted into a female’s “vent.” This is done by the male biting the female’s pectoral fin and arching his body.





  • Females are pregnant for about a year and are viviparous, which means the eggs hatch inside the body and the pups are provided a yolk sac placenta.





  • Pups are born inside a nutrient-dense yolk sac that they feed off of until they are ready to be born.





  • Whitefin hammerhead sharks give birth typically in the summer, in warm shallow coastal waters.





  • There are typically 15-31 pups per litter. Pups are 15 to 18 inches long when born.





  • Whitefin hammerheads hunt in packs. However young whitefin hammerhead sharks hunt closer to the surface, while the older sharks tend to hunt deeper in the water. Males often tend to stay deeper in the water than females.





  • Packs can be made up of hundreds of sharks.





  • Whitefin hammerheads tend to hunt close to the shores during the day and in deeper waters during the nighttime.





  • They also practice a behavior called “refuging” when they aren’t hunting. Refuging is where they stay in a safe area but still very close their food source.





  • Researchers have also noticed an interesting behavior among whitefin hammerheads called “flashing.” This is when whitefin hammerhead sharks will twist their bodies against the flickering sunlight from the surface to create a light flash. This maybe an unintentional behavior, but many researchers believe it may be a complex form of communication.





  • Females whitefin hammerhead sharks are noted to be very social. Researchers have observed nine different types displays of dominance, used either for control of the school or for mating. Some commonly observed behaviors include head shaking, corkscrew swimming, and headbutting.





  • Whitefin hammerheads have a very fast metabolism and have to eat 2% of their body weight everyday or they can starve.





  • They feed mostly on sardines, herring, and mackerels. They also have been known to eat octopuses, squids, lobsters, crabs, rays, and smaller shark species like the atlantic sharpnose shark the blacktip reef shark.





  • Most adult whitefin hammerheads will build up to 50 stingray barbs in their mouths and digestive tracts over a lifetime of hunting stingrays.





  • Adult hammerhead sharks have no natural predators besides humans. However, smaller hammerhead sharks are thought to be preyed up by tiger sharks and killer whales.





  • Since they are valued by commercial fisheries for their meat, whitefin hammerhead sharks have been overfished in recent years. They are now listed as a protected endangered species.





  • Whitefin hammerhead sharks are not considered a threat to humans. Since they have smaller mouths, it is not easy for them to bite a human. Also, they are relatively docile and have only been known to attack humans when directly threatened.





  • There is not a single documented case of a fatality from a whitefin hammerhead shark attack.




Now an endangered species, it’s more important than ever to learn about whitefin hammerhead sharks so that we can protect them from extinction. Though a very common species, there are tons of interesting whitefin hammerhead shark facts from where they live to their social behaviors to their unique appearance. These sharks are critical for the biodiversity of our planet and need to be protected!