American Oceans

Types of Hammerhead Sharks

The hammerhead shark is a highly recognizable species of shark. This is mainly due to their distinguishing feature: a head shaped like a hammer.

Hammerhead Sharks

However, many people don’t realize that there are ten different types of hammerhead sharks!

In this article, we’ll learn about these fascinating creatures, exploring their physical appearance, distribution, diets, and more.

What Are Hammerhead Sharks?

Hammerhead sharks are known for their flattened heads with outward extensions called cephalofoil, making the head shaped like a hammer or T-shaped structure. 

Hammerhead Shark swimming under the waters

The cephalofoil structure contains the shark’s eyes and nostrils, and its unique shape is believed to have several functions.

One of the primary purposes of the cephalofoil is enhanced sensory perception, as it provides the shark with a broader field of vision compared to other shark species.

Additionally, the Hammerhead’s wide-set eyes allow it to see in multiple directions at once, aiding in locating prey. 

Great Hammerhead

a great hammerhead shark swimming

Scientific Name: Sphyrna Mokarran
Size: 13-20 feet (4-6 meters); 500-1,000 pounds (230-450 kilograms)
Conservation Status: Endangered 
Distribution: Wide: Tropical and warm temperate waters of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans

The Great Hammerhead is a species of hammerhead shark known for its large size, with adults reaching lengths of up to 13-20 feet (4-6 meters) and weighing up to 500-1,000 pounds (230-450 kilograms). 

Great Hammerheads are opportunistic predators that feed on prey, including fish, rays, squid, and crustaceans. This endangered species is known for using its wide-set eyes to its advantage when hunting, allowing them to scan a larger area for potential prey.

They are solitary hunters, typically not forming large schools like other shark species. Great Hammerheads are found in many coastal and pelagic bodies of water and migrate seasonally, often moving between habitats in search of prey or reproduction opportunities.

Scalloped Hammerhead

a scalloped hammerhead shark from below

Scientific Name: Sphyrna Lewini
Size: 14 feet (4.3 meters); 450 pounds (200 kg)
Conservation Status: Endangered, Varies by region
Distribution: Wide: Tropical and warm temperate waters of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans

The Scalloped Hammerhead shark is known for its characteristic “scalloped” shaped head or cephalofoil. The shark’s body is slender and streamlined, with a dark gray or bronze coloration on the upper body and a lighter color on the underside. 

Scalloped Hammerhead sharks are primarily carnivorous and feed on prey, including fish, cephalopods (such as squid and octopus), and crustaceans

Even young scalloped hammerhead sharks can use their keen senses and specialized heads to locate and catch prey

One interesting fact about Scalloped Hammerhead sharks is that they are known to form large schools, sometimes in the hundreds or even thousands of individuals. These schools serve multiple purposes, including foraging, mating, and protection from predators.

Winghead Shark

Scientific Name: Eusphyra blochii
Size: 4-5 feet (1.2-1.5 meters); weight undocumented
Conservation Status: Endangered 
Distribution: Coastal waters of the Indo-Pacific region, including the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea, and the western Pacific Ocean.

Like other hammerhead sharks, the Winghead shark is named after its distinctive head shape, which resembles the shape of a wing or a shovel.

The elongated, wing-like projections on their head are thought to help them detect and capture prey and enhance their maneuverability. They primarily feed on small bony fishes, crustaceans, and cephalopods.

These sharks are known to be bottom-dwelling species, inhabiting shallow coastal waters, estuaries, and coral reefs. Its range extends from the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf to Australia, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines.

Scoophead Shark

Scientific Name: Sphyrna Media
Size: 5 feet (1.5 meters), weight undocumented
Conservation Status: Data Deficient
Distribution: Central and South American coasts, Atlantic 

The lesser-known Scoophead Shark (Sphyrna media) is a species of hammerhead shark found in the Central and South American coasts and the Atlantic, ranging from Panama to Southern Brazil and parts of the Caribbean.

This species of hammerhead shark stands out from other members of its genus due to its unique head shape, which has been likened to a scoop. They have subtle indentations, no inner-martial grooves, and a broadly arched mouth.

Additionally, they have dorsal coloration that ranges from gray-brown to golden-brown and a ventral surface that’s typically pale. 

Although data regarding their conservation status is deficient, some people assume they could be threatened due to shark finning and other practices.

Smalleye Hammerhead

Scientific Name: Sphyrna Tudes
Size: 4-5 feet (1.2-1.5 meters), weight undocumented
Conservation Status: Data Deficient 
Distribution: Tropical and subtropical waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean; from California in the United States to Peru in South America

The Smalleye Hammerhead, scientifically known as Sphyrna tudes, is a small species of a hammerhead shark. The eyes of the Smalleye Hammerhead are located towards the lateral ends of the head, giving it a unique appearance. 

Smalleye Hammerhead sharks’ diets primarily consist of small fishes, crustaceans, and cephalopods. Like other sharks in the Hammerhead shark family, they are opportunistic predators, feeding on various prey items depending on their availability in their habitat. 

Interestingly, the Smalleye Hammerhead is known for its solitary behavior, with little evidence of forming large schools or aggregations like some other hammerhead shark species. 

Scalloped Bonnethead Shark

Scientific Name: Sphyrna corona
Size: 2-3 feet (0.6-0.9 meters); 24 lbs (10.8 kg)
Conservation Status: Near Threatened 
Distribution: Warm temperate and tropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean

The Scalloped Bonnethead Shark differs from scalloped hammerhead sharks in that they have a bonnet-shaped head with a scalloped or ridged cephalofoil. In contrast, scalloped hammerhead sharks have a more hammer-shaped head with a broad, flattened cephalofoil.

This species is typically found in shallow coastal waters, including estuaries, seagrass beds, and coral reefs, ranging from the United States (North Carolina to Florida) to the Gulf of Mexico and the northern coast of South America.

Scalloped Bonnethead Sharks feed on prey, including small fishes, crustaceans, and mollusks. The shark population is threatened by overfishing, mainly due to the high demand for their fins in the shark fin trade.

Smooth Hammerhead

a smooth hammerhead shark swimming beneath the surface of the water

Scientific Name: Sphyrna Zygaena
Size: 16.4 (5 m) in length; 880 pounds (400 kg)
Conservation Status: Vulnerable
Distribution: Worldwide distribution in temperate and tropical seas, including the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.

The Smooth Hammerhead is a species of hammerhead shark known for its flat, wide, and exceptionally smooth head. Its body is steam-lined, with a gray or brownish coloration on the upper side and a lighter color on the underside. 

Smooth Hammerheads feed on various prey, including fish, squid, and crustaceans, and can detect prey in sandy and rocky habitats. They are also known to exhibit some schooling behavior, often seen swimming in groups, though they can also be solitary. 

Based on their conservation status, they have been classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Their population has been decreasing, which is a concerning trend for this species.

Carolina Hammerhead

Scientific Name: Sphyrna Gilberti
Size: 3 to 4 feet (0.9 to 1.2 meters); Weight undocumented
Conservation Status: Data Deficient 
Distribution: The western Atlantic Ocean, primarily along the southeastern coast of the United States

The first known species of the Carolina Hammerhead was found off of the South Carolina coast, hence its name.

The conservation status of the Smalleye Hammerhead is currently listed as “Data Deficient” by the IUCN Red List, which means there is insufficient data to assess its conservation status.

Additionally, since it’s a lesser-known species of hammerhead shark, there needs to be more information available about its biology, behavior, and ecological role. 

Further research is necessary to understand better this species’ population status, biology, and conservation needs.

Whitefin Hammerhead

Scientific Name: Sphyrna Couardi
Size: 3 to 4 feet (0.9 to 1.2 meters)
Conservation Status: Endangered 
Distribution: Eastern Atlantic Ocean, particularly in the waters off the western coast of Africa, from Mauritania to Angola

The Whitefin Hammerhead is a relatively small species of Hammerhead shark. Its cephalofoil is typically light gray or brown and has a prominent white band running along its lateral edges, which gives this species its common name, “Whitefin” Hammerhead. 

The Whitefin Hammerhead has a similar diet to other hammerheads, primarily feeding on small fishes, cephalopods, and crustaceans. 

And, also like other hammerhead sharks, the Whitefin Hammerhead is believed to use its cephalofoil to improve its ability to locate and capture prey. 

Bonnethead Shark

Bonnethead Shark swimming in ocean in natural habitat

Scientific Name: Sphyrna Tiburo
Size: 2 to 4 feet (0.6 to 1.2 meters)
Conservation Status: Endangered
Distribution: Western Atlantic Ocean and Eastern Pacific Ocean

Bonnethead Shark, also called shovelhead, is similar to the Scalloped Bonnethead Shark but with a smaller, more pointed head. It also has the smallest cephalofoil of all Sphyrna species.

These sharks range in distribution on the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, from the United States to Brazil – including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea – and from Southern California to Ecuador.

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