Bonnethead Shark Facts
- The distinctive term of Bonnethead Shark serves as the most frequently used of several common names for this fascinating marine creature. It also goes by the somewhat inventive alternate name of the shovelhead, as well as that of the bonnet shark.
- The scientific name for it, meanwhile, is comparatively simple, as technical terms goes. That’s because it bears the official name of the Sphyrna tiburo. By either of these terms, though, it represents yet another variety of hammerhead shark.
- The first known scientific recognition of it as a separate and distinct species took place long ago. More specifically, it happened in the year 1758. That further resulted from the research of the renowned Swedish zoologist and botanist, Carl Linnaeus.
- Its population appears to be stable in only certain portions of its range. Regrettably, the amazing Bonnethead Shark appears to be suffering from significantly reduced numbers in other regions, however. It’s been heavily targeted in fishing practices.
- This unfortunate fact further holds true in several portions of its natural range. Due to this overall decline, the IUCN presently lists the marine species as Endangered. This lamentable status is reflected in the organization’s Red List of Threatened Species.
- It accounts for as much as half of all shark catches in its range. The fish also suffers from other dangers as well. Habitat degradation and outright loss form an obvious threat, of course. Nevertheless, climate change must also now be considered a threat.
Bonnethead Shark Physical Description
The fascinating Bonnethead Shark impresses those who learn of it for reasons other that sheer size. That’s due to the simple fact that it’s a small species. In point of fact, this marvel of Nature forms the smallest of all currently known varieties of hammerhead shark.
The creature also displays a slight degree of the physiological characteristic of sexual dimorphism. In this instance, that trait manifests itself in terms of physical size. More precisely, the females of the species tend to attain slightly greater lengths than the males.
Overall, however, individuals of this hammerhead shark variety reach an average body length of roughly 2 – 3 ft (0.61 – 0.91 m). Exceptional specimens do naturally occur, though. Due to this, the largest specimen measured to date reached about 5 ft (1.5 m) in length.
Most frequently, the upper portion of the body of the Bonnethead Shark presents a dull grayish-brown color. The underside, meanwhile, usually develops as markedly lighter in coloring. It also develops a smooth, broad, shovel-like head, hence the common name.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Chondrichthyes
- Order: Carcharhiniformes
- Family: Sphyrnidae
- Genus: Sphyrna
- Species: S. tiburo
Bonnethead Shark Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
The intriguing Bonnethead Shark inhabits a relatively small portion of the oceans of the world. Not only that, but its range also happens to be highly specialized. That’s because, throughout its range, it only appears in a comparatively narrow strip along the shoreline.
More precisely, it primarily appears along the east and west coasts of the United States, in North America. To the east, however, individuals live as far south as the Gulf of Mexico and Brazil, in South America. The northern part of its range reaches as far as New England.
In the west, meanwhile, a few populations appear as far south as the waters near the country of Ecuador. To the north, in the Pacific Ocean, though, this shark makes appearances as far up the coast as southern California. Groupings further appear sporadically.
This species also migrates with the seasons in both parts of its range. As a result of this, individuals generally move southward as the water temperature changes. This shark typically prefers to inhabit regions with water temperatures over 70 F (21 C).
It also displays a fondness for specific types of habitat. These mainly include regions of seagrass, areas with very muddy or sandy bottoms. It will also, however, sometimes live in shallow bays and estuaries. In these regions, though, it prefers the presence of seagrass.
Most commonly, the Bonnethead Shark travels in small groups. These generally number no more than 1 individuals, except during migrations. At this time, they may be found in groups of hundreds or even thousands. Females prefer very shallow water for birthing.
This species stands apart from all other known sharks in one surprising way. This occurs despite being the smallest of its kind. That’s because all other known sharks feed entirely as carnivores. This species, though, is an omnivore, occasionally eating seagrass.