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Hammerhead Shark

Hammerhead Shark Facts

Size 36-240 in (92-610 cm)
Speed Up to 25 mph (40 km/h)
Weight 507-992 lb (230-450 kg)
Lifespan 20-25 years
Food Sardines, herrings, squids, rays
Predators Tiger shark, white shark, orca
Habitat Worldwide, coastal waters
Order Ground sharks
Family Hammerheads
Scientific name Sphyrnidae
Characteristics broad, flat head resembling a hammer

Main Characteristics

The hammerhead shark has been named after the shape of its head, which resembles a hammer. There exist seven species. The great hammerhead and the smooth hammerhead are the biggest with a length of 20 feet (6.1 meters). At night it goes hunting on its own. During the day it swims about in so-called “schools” (groups) of up to 100 animals.

Hammerhead Shark Hammerhead Shark - Photo: frantisekhojdysz/Shutterstock

Anatomy and Appearance

Why Is the Head of This Shark Shaped Like a Hammer?

In the past, biologists reckoned that hammerheads used their heads to beat their prey to death. Today we know that the hammerhead can perceive its surroundings better due to the shape of its head. Its eyes are positioned left and right at the sides of the head so that the shark has a fantastic 360 degree view. With sensory pores at the snout the shark detects electrical signals from other living organisms. It can even easily detect rays hiding in the sands on the ground of the sea.


Life Style

Are All Sharks Loners?

Most sharks are solitary animals and normally swim about on their own. Hammerheads like to explore the oceans in groups. Smooth hammerheads and kidney-headed hammerheads even form schools of several hundred up to thousand animals.


Is the Hammerhead Shark Dangerous?

Hammerheads are very big and often stay near the coast at 0 to 66 feet (0 to 20 meters) below the water surface. Yet, they can also dive up to 656 feet (200 meters) deep. Thus there happen to be encounters between bathing people and the impressive animals from time to time. Attacks occur very rarely, and only the great hammerhead is classified as dangerous. Two of 21 documented accidents with hammerheads were fatal.

Hammerhead Shark Hammerhead Shark - Photo: Matt9122/Shutterstock

Enemies and Threats

Do Hammerhead Sharks Have Enemies?

The biggest enemies of hammerhead sharks are humans. Hammerheads often drown in fishing nets. In some countries, their fins are even appreciated as a delicate dish, e.g. in the shark-fin soup.


Generally, the smaller hammerheads have two youngs and the larger ones more than 30. The babies are born in shallow waters and bred there for the first few years.


Hammerhead Shark Hammerhead Shark - Photo: Tomas Kotouc/Shutterstock


How Big Can Hammerheads Get?

Hammerhead SpeciesMaximum Length
Scalloped bonnethead 3 feet (92 cm)
Scoophead 5 feet (1.50 meters)
Bonnethead 5 feet (1.50 meters)
Smalleye hammerhead 5 feet (1.50 meters)
Scalloped hammerhead 13.7 feet (4.20 meters)
Smooth hammerhead 20 feet (6.10 meters)
Great hammerhead 20 feet (6.10 meters)

Hammerhead Shark Hammerhead Shark - Photo: Grant M Henderson/Shutterstock


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