What Do Hammerhead Sharks Eat? Their Diet Explained

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Updated: November 19, 2021
Image Credit Martin Voeller/Shutterstock.com
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What Do Hammerhead Sharks Eat
Hammerhead sharks are predominately carnivores (although on species is an omnivore!) and eat a diet consisting mostly of squids, fish, stingrays, and eels


Hammerhead sharks are a group of nine shark species out of more than one thousand shark species in our oceans. With their hard to ignore and aggressive appearance, it’s not surprising that people often have questions about hammerheads. Let’s take a closer look at what hammerhead sharks eat and whether they are dangerous to humans.

What Do Hammerhead Sharks Eat?

Best known for their distinctive head shape, hammerhead sharks have smaller mouths than sharks of comparable size, which limits their food options. Even still, food choices vary amongst the numerous species. For example, the smaller bonnethead shark (one of the nine hammerhead species) is one of only a few sharks to have been observed eating seagrass, which makes them omnivorous.

Hammerhead sharks eat a diet that’s comprised of various fish species, squid, crustaceans such lobsters, and eels. Hammerhead sharks have also developed a particular taste for the Stingray, and they seem immune to the stingray’s venomous barbs.

What Do Hammerhead Sharks Eat - A Hammerhead Up Close
If you see this, you’re about to become hammerhead shark prey!

Martin Voeller/Shutterstock.com

The Diet of Hammerhead Sharks: 12 Animals They Eat

Hammerhead sharks eat foods that include:

A study was conducted between 2000 and 2005 that examined the stomach contents of 556 hammerheads. It found that 38% of hammerhead stomachs had squid and 13% had crustaceans. The most popular fish hammerheads prey on are carangids, mojarra, and drum fish. In total, 72 different fish species were found in the stomachs of hammerheads! About 2% of hammerhead shark stomachs contained moray eels as well.

It should also be noted that some larger hammerhead sharks have been known to exhibit cannibalistic tendencies. While it may be shocking to read, cannibalism in the natural world is not rare, and thousands of species have been observed to engage in this type of eating behavior.

Animals that fly – flying squid
In the study of hammerheads from 2005, their most common prey was small squids


How Much do Hammerheads Eat?

Exact numbers are lacking, but it is assumed that hammerheads are opportunistic feeders and will eat as much as they can catch. It is generally accepted that young pups need to eat at least 3.5% of their body weight in order to maintain growth.

What Animals Competes with Hammerheads for Food?

Hammerhead sharks are apex predators, so they rarely have natural predators once they reach adulthood. Hammerheads do, however, experience competition from other sharks and apex predators. When resources are low, hammerheads have occasionally become the targets for hungry Killer Whales.

How Do Hammerhead Sharks Hunt for Food?

Hammerheads are usually solitary nocturnal hunters, although large schools of over 100 have been observed. With eye placement at the ends of their elongated heads, a hammerhead’s field of vision is much better than other sharks, which aids in food detection. The lateral expansion of the head also allows hammerheads to perform agile turning movements when hunting. When going after stingrays, hammerheads use their heads like hammers, pinning and slamming the stingray into the ocean floor until the stingray grows tired and they can successfully eat it. Hammerheads also have highly sensitive electroreceptive organs that enable them to detect small electrical impulses of their prospective prey.

What do Hammerhead Sharks Eat - Hammerhead with a school of fish
Hammerhead shark and school of fish


Are Hammerhead Sharks Dangerous to Humans?

Hammerheads are unafraid of humans but don’t seem all that interested in them either. Attacks are uncommon, and to date, only 17 attacks have been recorded globally with zero fatalities. It has been observed that hammerheads will often exhibit signs before attacking, like wild contorted movements. Generally speaking, as long as they are unprovoked, a hammerhead shark will not attack a human.

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AZ Animals is a growing team of animals experts, researchers, farmers, conservationists, writers, editors, and -- of course -- pet owners who have come together to help you better understand the animal kingdom and how we interact.

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