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Bonnethead Sharks

The bonnethead shark’s head protrudes forward like a wide, rounded shovel. To add to the oddness, its eyes are perched on the far sides of its head for an expanded field of vision. Imagine if our eyes looked out above our ears. Now that would change our perspective on life!

The smallest of the hammerheads, bonnetheads (Sphyrna tiburo) rarely exceed 4½ feet in length and are considered harmless. Found on both coasts of the Americas, they favor toasty coastal waters above 70 degrees, migrating to the equator in winter months and toward higher latitudes during the summer. They usually congregate in gender-specific schools of five to 15 members.

Bonnetheads sway their heads from side to side, scanning the bottom with their fine-tuned sensory and nervous systems to help them fill their proverbial plates. Their eyes perceive shadows and light, their smell is as keen as a hound’s, and they can detect flickers of vibration from hundreds of feet away. Once the pups are born, adult females lose their appetite and adult males steer clear. Is this to ensure that more food is available for the growing babies? No. It’s a protective measure to prevent the adults from eating the babies.

Bonnetheads must literally swim or sink if they don’t keep moving to drive oxygen past their gills. Although not much is known about it, they use a special cerebrospinal fluid to let others know they’re around. But when you visit the Caribbean Reef, you won’t have any trouble spotting the bizarre bonnethead shark.


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