What’s a Baby Hammerhead Shark Called + 4 More Facts!

Written by Sadie Dunlap
Published: January 6, 2022
Image Credit starryvoyage/Shutterstock.com
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The baby hammerhead shark is an amazing and unique marine animal. Did you know that some species of baby hammerheads are endangered? Or that hammerhead pups must swim forward to breathe?

Keep reading to learn five astounding facts about the baby hammerhead shark and to check out some seriously adorable pictures! 

#1: A Baby Hammerhead Shark is Called a Pup!

baby hammerhead shark closeup
Baby hammerhead sharks are called pups!

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When you think of the word pup, chances are the first thing that comes to mind is a baby dog. Or perhaps you know that baby seals, mice, and even squirrels are called the same. But did you know that a baby hammerhead shark is called a pup? A group of baby hammerhead sharks is called a litter and a group of adults is called a school. 

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#2: Some Hammerhead Shark Pups are Endangered

baby hammerhead shark portrait
The hammerhead shark population has decreased 80% over the last 25 years.

Natalya Chernyavskaya/Shutterstock.com

The Great Hammerhead, Smooth Hammerhead, and Scalloped Hammerhead sharks are all endangered specifies. That means that they are only two steps away from being completely extinct. Scientists say that over the last 25 years, the hammerhead shark population in the wild has decreased 80%.

Luckily, conservation efforts are underway to protect hammerhead shark pups from extinction. For example, the Australian government passed a law called EPBC Act that protects the fragile species from recreational fishing. However, a clause in the act protects the rights of commercial fishermen to capture hammerhead sharks. This means that despite conservation efforts, wild hammerhead sharks continue to be plucked from their natural environment.

Conservationists say the best way to protect endangered baby hammerhead shark species is by implementing stricter laws. Rather than siding with commercial fishermen for financial gain, they recommend putting the animals first. After all, commercial fishing is the biggest threat to hammerhead shark pups today, with 370 tons of hammerhead sharks per year caught in Australia alone.

#3: Hammerhead Shark Pups Have Rounded Heads

tiny baby hammerhead shark
Hammerhead shark pups’ heads make it easier for them to exit the birth canal.

starryvoyage/Shutterstock.com

Perhaps the most distinct and iconic feature of a hammerhead shark is its long, flat head. However, a baby hammerhead shark is born with a slightly different-shaped noggin. Instead of the broad, flat head that adults have, baby hammerheads’ heads are slightly rounded. Scientists say they are born this way to make it easier to exit the birth canal.

Did you know that a hammerhead shark pup’s head has a special name? It’s true!  The scientific name for this head is a cephalofoil. As a baby hammerhead grows, its t-shaped head slowly straightens. Eventually, it has a wide, flattened head that serves many purposes. The main way that hammerheads use their heads is to protect themselves; it makes a great weapon! 

Defense isn’t the only thing their unique head is good for. Baby hammerhead shark pups also use their heads to find food! They have special sensory organs in their heads called the ampullae of Lorenzini. These organs help them detect electrical fields that their prey create in the ocean around them. This ability combined with their 360-degree field of vision above and below them makes them great predators.

#4: Hammerhead Shark Babies Must Move to Breathe

baby hammerhead shark washed up
Hammerhead shark pups move water over their gills as they swim to get oxygen.

Natalya Chernyavskaya/Shutterstock.com

Sharks are fish, not mammals. However, they still need oxygen to survive. Some marine animals like whales and manatees come to the surface to breathe. Sharks, on the other hand, use their gills to extract oxygen from the air around them.

Did you know that in order to breathe, sharks must swim forward? It’s true! If baby hammerhead sharks are unable to move for longer than two or three minutes, they will suffocate. This is due to the circulatory system that their gills require. As they swim, they take in water over their gills. Then, tiny capillaries in their bloodstream absorb the oxygen, allowing the shark to “breathe”.

The baby hammerhead shark’s gill system means that fishermen’s nets are especially dangerous to them. Being caught in a net for more than a few minutes is inevitably deadly for this species. Consequently, the Hawaii State legislature is working on a law that would create fees and penalties for anyone who purposefully harms a baby hammerhead shark or any other shark species.

#5: Hammerhead Sharks Have Lots of Babies! 

baby hammerhead shark school
The average litter size of a hammerhead shark is anywhere from 20 to 42 pups!

EDGAR PHOTOSAPIENS/Shutterstock.com

Can you imagine having anywhere from 20 to 42 siblings? For a baby hammerhead shark, this is a reality! Female hammerhead sharks typically give birth in the summer near warm coastlines and have live births. The babies are an average of 2.1 feet long and weigh about 6 pounds.

Even though they are born small, hammerhead sharks have plenty of growing to do. Depending on their species, they will grow up to weigh anywhere from 500 to 1,000 pounds. The largest hammerhead shark can grow to be up to 20 feet long! The smallest hammerhead shark species is the Scalloped Bonnethead and the largest is the Great Hammerhead.

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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What are baby hammerhead sharks called?

A baby hammerhead shark is called a pup! They share their baby name with many other animals such as baby seals, baby dogs, and even baby skunks! 

How much do baby hammerhead sharks weigh?

Hammerhead shark pups usually weigh about 6 pounds as newborns.

What do baby hammerhead sharks eat?

Sharks are cold-blooded animals that don’t produce milk to feed their young. This means that baby hammerhead sharks have the same carnivorous diet as their parents. This consists of small fish, crustaceans, squids, and other marine life.

Where do baby hammerhead sharks live?

Baby hammerhead sharks live in sea waters all over the world. They prefer areas that are warm and enjoy being close to the coastline. During the birthing season in the summer, female hammerheads come close to the coastline to birth their young. 

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