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Smooth Hammerhead Shark

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Smooth Hammerhead Shark
Sphyrna zygaena

Photo modified from Sharks and Rays. TC Tricas, K Deacon, P Last, JE McCosker, TI Walker, L Taylor. 1997. Nature Company Guides, Time Life Book Series. Weldon Owen Pty Ltd San Francisco.

   The hammerhead sharks are easy to distinguish from other sharks because of the characteristic compressed head. The cephalophoil, or head, is a broad and flattened skull that gives this shark its distinguished shape. However, within the hammerhead family there are several species that are differentiated by subtle differences in the shape of the cephalophoil. The smooth hammerhead is the only one that appears in Canadian waters and is characterized by a head that lacks a central indentation, hence the name. This shark is white underneath turning to brownish gray or a deep olive colour on top. The teeth, which are similar on both the upper and lower jaw, are triangular and smooth-edged. Adults of this species can attain lengths up to 3.7 to 4 meters (12 to 13 feet) and can weigh in excess of 400 kg (880 lbs).

Photo modified from Sharks and Rays. TC Tricas, K Deacon, P Last, JE McCosker, TI Walker, L Taylor. 1997. Nature Company Guides, Time Life Book Series. Weldon Owen Pty Ltd San Francisco.

Diet

   The smooth hammerhead feeds on schooling fish such as herring and menhaden. Other animals in their diet include other sharks (its own species included), shrimp, skates, crustaceans and cephalopods.

Reproduction

   The smooth hammerhead is a viviparous species that gives birth to a large litter, between 20 to 40 pups. The pups are usually 50cm (20 inches) long at birth. Individuals become sexually mature at 2.3 meters (7.5 feet).

Habitat

   The smooth hammerhead shark is distributed worldwide. They occur in all warm temperate waters but are rare in tropical waters. It prefers inshore waters less than 20 meters (65 feet). These sharks occur at the surface in the open ocean and often form enormous schools during migration to cooler latitudes during the summer months.

Range

   This shark can be found in the western and eastern North Atlantic and in the Indian Ocean. In the western Atlantic the smooth hammerhead ranges from Nova Scotia to Florida. This shark has been reported in Nova Scotian waters off Herring Cove, Sambro Light and Brier Island as well as in St. Margaret's Bay and on the northeast tip of Georges Bank.

Hammer Head

Distinguishing Characteristics

  • Hammer-shaped head that lacks a central indentation

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