Great Hammerhead Shark

Sphyrna mokarran

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This is the largest species of hammerhead shark in the world. This shark can reach a maximum length of 20 feet (6.1 m) and weigh up to 510 lbs. (230 kg). Their bodies are strong and slender with sickle-shaped fins. The upper part of the body is usually dark brown, grey or olive colored. The belly is white.

The distinctive head, or cephalofoil, has a nearly straight front margin, which is distinctive from other species, such as the scalloped hammerhead shark. Scientists believe the unique head shape is an adaptation that allows hammerhead sharks to hit and stun stingrays, one of its preferred prey. The head also functions as a hydrofoil, which allows the shark to make quick, tight maneuvers. Other food sources include bony fishes, other sharks, crustaceans and cephalopods. Great hammerheads usually swim and hunt alone and are a very capable apex predator.

These sharks have often appeared curious around SCUBA divers but bites are extremely rare.

Range and Habitat

These sharks are found in tropical waters around the world. They prefer shallow, inland waters along the continental shelf, islands and lagoons.

Conservation Status

Endangered. Because of its very large fins, the great hammerhead is heavily hunted for use in Asian shark fin soup. Worldwide, its numbers continue to decline and it is currently considered a “high risk” species for extinction by the International Union of Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.