This month we're showcasing the Smooth Hammerhead Shark...

Hammerhead sharks are aptly named for their very distinctive hammer-shaped heads. This unique adaptation improves their manoeuvrability, enables them to see 360°, and enhances their ability to detect electrical currents. A sixth sense that all sharks have.

Sharks have lots of tiny pores covering their head and snout, called ampullae of Lorenzini. These are extremely sensitive and can detect even the faintest of electrical fields. Such as those generated by the Earth’s geomagnetic field, or muscle contractions in prey. The broad flat head of a hammerhead provides a much larger surface area for these pores, which is why they’re so good at finding prey - such as stingrays - completely buried beneath the sand.

The hammerhead shark family is made up of 8 species. The largest of which are the Great, Scalloped and Smooth. Each have slight variations to the front edge of their head…and their names hold the clue.

The head (or cephalophoil) of a Smooth Hammerhead is smooth and more rounded in shape. Whereas the Scalloped has wavy indentations like a scallop shell. The largest of them all - the Great Hammerhead - has a much straighter front edge.


Image showing how to identify Hammerhead Sharks by the shape of their head.


The Smooth Hammerhead Shark has a broad distribution worldwide but prefers temperate waters. They’ve even been recorded in British waters but are rare. 

Younger sharks may gather together in huge schools to migrate, travelling south in winter and north in summer. With older sharks preferring to migrate in smaller groups. Males sexually mature around 2.1m. While females mature later at 2.7m, giving birth to litters of 20-50 pups. They're thought to live ~20 years.

The biggest threat facing Smooth Hammerheads comes from overfishing. While there's no target fishery for this species, they're highly-prized for their fins. So, if captured as bycatch they’re often retained throughout much of their geographic range. Although retention of hammerhead sharks is banned in Atlantic high-seas fisheries.

  • SCIENTIFIC NAME: Sphyrna zygaena

  • FAMILY:  Sphyrnidae

  • MAXIMUM SIZE: 4m

  • DIET: Bony-fish, small sharks, skates & stingrays

  • DISTRIBUTION: Worldwide in tropical and temperate waters. 

  • HABITAT: Coastal species found at the surface to depths of 200m (prefers 0-20m).

  • CONSERVATION STATUS: Vulnerable


Related Links:

► Check out more incredible sharks and rays covered in our Creature Features

► Discover more fin-tastic facts by visiting our Discover Sharks section