Found both in coastal and pelagic regions in all oceans 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 their eyes on the leading edge of the head and is the basis for their name. Their bodies are grey with lighter underbellies, which is known as countershading and is very common with offshore species. Adult scalloped hammerheads live offshore and come into shallower areas to pup. In Hawaiian waters, 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!
Juvenile scalloped hammerhead sharks primarily feed on bony fish and squid, while adults eat bony fish, squid, sharks, and rays. Their 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, with 6-8 feet being the average in Hawaiʻi. Although usually seen solitary, hammerhead sharks are known to school in large numbers in the hundreds. Considered a shy and docile species, the scalloped hammerhead is not likely to approach divers in the ocean.
Due to activity conducted by small commercial fisheries, scalloped hammerheads are sought out for various reasons, including food, oil, and their fins. These factors have dwindled the population, adding this species to the list as an endangered species.
Studies indicate that their strangely shaped flattened head might serve more than one function. Researchers believe their 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 and serves as proof of successful adaptation.
In Hawai‘i, sharks were worshipped, cared for, and protected as an ‘aumakua, or family deities, 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 sharks. They believed their departed ancestors took the form of a shark, and therefore would feed and protect the shark and in return, the shark would then protect the family. Shark stories are very frequent in Hawaiian literature and make for a fascinating read. 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, we cannot guarantee the presence of any specific animal.