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Great Hammerhead Shark

Sphyrna mokarran

Distinguishing Characteristics

  • Head is compressed and hammer-shaped without pointed lobes on each side
  • Indentation on front of head at its midpoint
  • Back is dark olive green to brownish-gray, fading to a white belly
  • Tall 1st dorsal fin
  • Pelvic fins with curved rear margins
  • No interdorsal ridge



Hammerhead ID

Similar Species: Scalloped hammerhead, lewini (sides of head pointed forward), and smooth hammerhead, S. zygaena (no indentation on front of head at midpoint). All three of these species can be differentiated by their head shape. Photo courtesy of NMFS-SEFSC.


Maximum size about 18-19 feet. Matures at approximately 8-9 feet and is a long-lived shark (44 years).


A common tropical and subtropical shark that inhabits the open ocean and the shallow coastal waters of both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of Florida. Favors continental and insular coral reefs but is often associated with inlets and the mouths of bays. Nomadic and migratory, with some Florida populations moving north along the Atlantic coast in summer.


Feeds on stingrays, grouper, sea catfish, a variety of bony fishes, sharks, crabs, and squid.


After 11-12 months of gestation, females give birth to live young. Broods range from 10-56 pups. Size at birth about 2 feet.  Juveniles utilize shallow bays and coastal waters as nursery areas.

Additional Information

It is unlawful to harvest, possess, land, purchase, sell or exchange this species commercially or recreationally in state waters off Florida as they are included on the state prohibited species list. However, this species is still taken in federal waters. Considered to be dangerous, ranking seventh in unprovoked bites on humans.

Recreational Regulations

Image Credit: © Diane Rome Peebles