Ah yes, the Hammerhead Shark. Take one look at this amazing fish and you’ll know how it got its name. With the projections on the side of it’s head, it’s a very distinctive shark. Did you know there are 10 species of hammerheads?

Hammerheads in Key Largo

In Key Largo most common species you are likely to see are the Scalloped Hammerhead, Smooth Hammerhead, and rarely the Great Hammerhead. While it may be tough at first glace to tell which is which, there is a way. If you look closely at their heads you can spot the differences.

Scalloped Hammerhead

The scalloped hammerhead is a coastal pelagic species: Occurring over continental and insular shelves and in nearby deeper water. They are found in warm waters worldwide and can be found down to depths over 1,600 ft but is most often found above 82 ft. During the day, they are more often found close to shore and at night they hunt further offshore.  On average, males measure 4.9 to 5.9 ft and weigh about 64 lbs, larger females measure 8.2 ft and weigh 180 lbs on average. The maximum length of the scalloped hammerhead is 14 ft and the maximum weight 336 lbs. A female caught off of Miami was found to have measured 10.7 ft and reportedly weighed 440 lbs!

However, scalloped hammerheads are on the “globally endangered” species list. In parts of the Atlantic Ocean, their populations have declined by over 95% in the past 30 years. Among the reasons for this drop off are over-fishing and the rise in demand for shark fins.

Smooth Hammerhead

The second-largest hammerhead next to the great hammerhead, the smooth hammerhead typically measures 8.2–11.5 ft long with a maximum recorded length and weight of 16 ft and 880 lbs. It differs from other large hammerheads in its head shape. It has a curved front margin without an indentation in the center. Among the hammerhead sharks, the smooth hammerhead is the species most tolerant of temperate water and occurs worldwide to higher latitudes than any other species.

At present, this species remains relatively common and has been assessed as “vulnerable” by the World Conservation Union.

Great Hammerhead

The great hammerhead is the largest species of hammerhead shark, attaining a maximum length of 20 ft. They are found in tropical and warm temperate waters worldwide, inhabiting coastal areas and the continental shelf. You can distinguish a great hammerhead from other hammerheads by the shape of its “hammer”. If you look closely, it is wide with an almost straight front margin. Another distinctive feature is the tall, sickle-shaped first dorsal fin.

And with great hammerheads being listed as globally “endangered” it is a rare sight to behold when diving.

 

If you dive Molasses Reef here in Key Largo, there is always a chance you could see one of these rare sharks! With Molasses being close to the gulf stream compared to many other dive sites, you can some days catch animals on their migratory paths. Occasionally large animals will make a pitstop through the reef and give a great photo op! These sharks are not a threat to divers. And more often than not they will be long gone before you can get a photo.

 

The Hammerhead Shark!