What a swim this turned out to be! Through the green waters off the Florida coast, we see a large hammerhead shark swim up to and then circle a very relaxed swimmer. The lucky man is floating calmly on his back enjoying the water completely unaware that this incredible, and slightly scary, animal is circling below him. Perhaps that is just as well!
Hammerheads and Their Distinctive Shape
Even if you are no shark expert, the distinctive outline of a hammerhead shark is easy to spot – especially from above as we see in this video. It is also interesting to note the way that this huge fish alters the angle of their body so that they are rarely swimming with their head straight in front of them. This is done to reduce the drag produced by the shape of their nose and to make their swimming more efficient. Having a wide head does not make you streamline!
Which brings us to the question of why the hammer head has this particular head shape? The scientific name for the ‘hammer’ is cephalofoil and there is no getting away from the fact that it looks bizarre. However, it serves a very important purpose and that is connected with sensing the environment around them. Let’s start with the eyes which are located on the edges of the hammer. This gives the shark all round vision. Also, it is packed with sensory organs that allow the shark to detect the tiny electrical impulses given off by creatures. Both of these help the hammerhead to locate food, such as stingrays.
Once the stingray has been located, the sharks will use their use their hammers to pin the stingray to the ocean floor until they become exhausted and allow themselves to be eaten! They like to hunt in shallow water and they will also eat fish, squid and eels. The smaller bonnethead shark also eats sea grass so they would be classed as omnivorous.
Humans and Hammerheads
Hammerheads are apex predators so once they are adults there are very few animals that would attack them. It has been known for killer whales to attack them if there is no other source of food. Their only other predator is humans who catch the sharks for food or catch them accidentally when hunting other fish.
This particular hammerhead seemed to be super chilled and not that interested in the swimmer. But was this swimmer ever in danger? In theory, yes he was but hammerhead attacks on humans are rare. In general, they are pretty indifferent about humans and do not pay us much attention. Hammerhead-on-human attacks have been recorded, however, and the shark has the power and aggression to do us a lot of damage should they choose to.
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