How Does a Hammerhead Shark Protect Itself?

By William Council
Hammerhead sharks have several defensive abilities

Sharks are one of the most feared predators on the planet. However, oceans contain a multitude of creatures and even predator can become prey. A defense mechanism common to all sharks is sandpaper-like skin that can tear the flesh of an attacker. Hammerhead sharks have many other ways to protect themselves, with their signature head configuration providing three of their core defenses.

Heightened senses

A hammerhead's eyes and nostrils are located on the end of its head, which gives the animal a wider range of vision than other sharks, and its widened nostrils increase its ability to catch the scent of approaching foes. Similar to bats, hammerhead sharks also have a natural sonar, called echolocation. Their superior senses help them avoid larger predators.

Detect electrical field

Besides their normal senses, hammerheads also have the ampullae of Lorenzini, which gives them the ability to detect electrical fields. Manta rays, hammerheads' preferred prey, hide beneath the sand on the ocean floor, but hammerheads are able to detect the rays' electrical field beneath the sand. This sensitivity also helps the sharks avoid hidden predators.

Close-quarter maneuvers

Hammerheads are aerodynamic, able to make quick, tight turns. They're also rather buoyant, due to an oil found in their liver that is lighter in density than water. Maneuverability is vital especially to younger hammerheads, which can be prey to a number of predators -- including older hammerhead sharks. Like other shark species, hammerheads can be cannibalistic. Higher maneuverability is the only real defense a cornered younger hammerhead would have against an older one.


There's power in numbers, so the saying goes, and hammerheads take advantage of this, sometimes forming schools of up to 500 members. As the only sharks that form schools, small- and medium-sized hammerheads group by day and separate at night to feed. Smaller lone wolf hammerhead sharks often fall prey to larger hammerheads and sharks from other species.

About the Author

William Council has a B.A. in English from Columbia University and is a Desert Storm Marine Corps Veteran. A lifelong fan of comics, Council interned at Marvel Comics under the tutelage of editor Gregory Wright. Both a writer and graphic artist since 1992, Council currently runs Zephaniah Comics.