Found both in coastal and pelagic regions in all ocean of the world, the hammerhead shark is by far one of the most unique and distinct sharks in our oceans today. The scalloped species has four lobes between the eyes on the leading edge of the head, and the basis for their name. Their bodies are grey with lighter underbellies, known as countershading that is very common with offshore species. Adult scalloped hammerheads live offshore and come into shallower areas to pup. In the Hawaiian Islands, pupping grounds include Hilo Bay, Kāne’ohe Bay and Waimea Bay to name a few. Hammerhead sharks have been recorded down as deep as 900 feet!
Studies indicate that its strangely shaped flattened head might serve more than one function. Researchers believe the abnormal head shape enhances the shark’s sense of electroreception, smell, maneuverability and lift. It’s no doubt why this species is so abundant and widespread, proof of a successful adaptation.
Juvenile scalloped hammerhead sharks primarily feed on bony fish and squid while adults eat bony fish, squid, sharks and rays. Gestation period is 11-12 months and litter size ranges from 15-31 pups. Birth size is anywhere from 16-20 inches and adults having been known to reach lengths of up to 13 feet, 6-8 feet average in the Hawaiian Islands. Although usually seen solitary, hammerhead sharks are known to school in large numbers in the hundreds. Considered a shy and docile species, not very likely to approach divers the scalloped hammerhead is listed as endangered. Due to small commercial fisheries, scalloped hammerheads are sought out for various reasons, including food, oil and for its fins listing it as an endangered species.
In Hawai‘i, sharks were worshipped, cared for and protected as an ‘aumakua, or family deity while others viewed sharks as an important source of food and tools. Those who had the shark as their ‘aumakua wouldn’t hunt or eat shark. They believed their departed ancestors took the form of a shark, therefore would feed and protect the shark and in return the shark would protect the family. Shark stories are very frequent in Hawaiian literature and make a fascinating read. As cultural advisor to the Maui Ocean Center, Kahu Dane Maxwell blesses each shark that enters or leaves the park.
*Due to the constant rotation of animals back to the ocean, the presence of any specific animal cannot be guaranteed.