How the Unusual Biology of the Hammerhead Shark Allows It to Be an Extremely Successful Predator

Stephanie Sammann of Real Science takes a look at the remarkable biology of the hammerhead shark, particularly how their head and unique eye placement gives them incredible depth perception while hunting prey.

The iconic hammer of the hammerhead shark is called a cephalofoil,  ….Out of all the sharks, they have the clearest  view of the underwater world, and it shows. Hammerheads are some of the most effective  predators among the sharks – easily  catching and devouring stingrays,  octopuses, and even other sharks. This alone may have been enough to influence  the evolution of the hammerhead cephalofoil.  

How the Unusual Biology of the Hammerhead Shark Allows It to Be an Extremely Successful Predator

The shape of the head (cephalofoil) also gives the hammerhead enhanced maneuverability that allows them to change direction easily.

…when the head is tilted up or down, strong forces quickly come into play. When the angle of attack changes, the shark can rapidly ascend or descend. The hammer is not for lift,  but for maneuverability. And this type of motion is essential for how the  hammerhead hunts

The wider head also gives the hammerhead a greater ability to sense electric fields that indicate life. In a sense, the hammerhead uses its head like a metal detector to root out prey.

With a wider head, hammerheads have a greater  number of electrosensory pores. The pores are also located over a broader area, which increases the  surface area that the head can sample, and thus increases the probability of a prey encounter.  So when the hammerhead swims above the sand, it   waves its head like a metal detector looking for  treasure – its treasure being a buried stingray.