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Hammerhead Sharks. Sphyrnidae species.

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna lewini)

All images and text on this page are copyright protected: © 2010 Kelvin Aitken.
All rights reserved. Students may use this information for personal research only. Not for commercial use.

Order: Carcharhiniformes
Family: Carcharhinidae
Genus: Sphyrna
Taxonomic name (of species shown): Sphyrna lewini

There are four species of hammerhead shark found in Australian waters, ranging is size from 190-600 cm. The Smooth Hammerhead (Sphyrna zygaena),which at times forms large schools, is found only in southern waters, mostly in shallow bays and reefs down to depths of 20 m. Its head has a smooth, bow-like leading edge with no central indentation.

The similar Scalloped Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna lewini) is found in tropical to warm temperate waters from the surface down to 300 m. The leading edge of the wing-like head has a central indentation and is flanked by two more scalloped indentations. The rather shy Scalloped Hammerhead is most famous for forming large schools during the daytime. It feeds on fish and squid at night in deep water.

The Winghead Shark (Eusphyra blochii) is the smallest hammerhead growing to only 1 m long. It is easily distinguished by the long rectangular wings on the head projecting well out from the body. It is found in the far north in shallow and often silty water.

Unlike the other hammerhead species, which are considered harmless, the Great Hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran) has the potential to be dangerous. It has an indentation in the centre of the head and a very tall, curved dorsal fin. It does not school like other species but single animals are found around offshore tropical reefs.

The amazing hammer-shaped head of the hammerhead sharks provides for a large sweep of its scent, sight and electro-sensory equipment. The winged shape of the head also allows the shark to manoeuvre very quickly as it twists and turns after speedy prey.

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