Diving near a Galapagos Hammerhead Shark is an unforgettable adventure that may last in your memories for a lifetime.
They have a distinctive flattened head, extended to each side, with the eyes set on the outer edges.
The hammerhead shark's name derives from the flattened projections at the side of its head. The eyes are on the outer edges of the projections.
The advantages of this head design are not known; it may be that the shark's vision is improved by the wide separation of the eyes, or the head may provide extra lift by acting as an aerofoil.
Hammerhead sharks in Galapagos are generally Silver-grey to grey-brown in color, and white on the underside.
They are most commonly seen near Wolf Island and Darwin Island to the north of the Galapagos Archipelago. The Galapagos Islands are one of the last remaining places where large schools of Galapagos hammerhead sharks can be observed.
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You can see them cruising over reefs and boulder-strewn slopes. There are nine known species of Hammerhead sharks that range from 3 to 20 feet in length.
All the species have a projection on each side of the head that makes the sharks head appear like a flattened hammer, hence the name "hammerhead shark". The sharks eyes and nostrils are at the tips of their hammer shaped heads.
The Galapagos hammerhead shark has electrolocation (use of electrical impulses) sensory pores called "ampullae of Lorenzini" (special sensing organs, forming a network of jelly-filled canals found on cartilaginous fishes).
By distributing the receptors over a wider area, hammerhead sharks can sweep for prey more effectively. These sharks have been able to detect an electrical signal of half a billionth of a volt.
The hammer-shaped head also gives these sharks larger nasal tracts, increasing the chance of finding a particle in the water by at least 10 times as against the ability of other sharks.
It is suggested that hammerhead sharks are among the most highly evolved shark species in the world.
Hammerhead sharks are aggressive predators, eating fish, rays, squid, octopuses, and crustaceans.
Although all sharks have been fully protected within the Galapagos Marine Reserve since 1994, they are still under constant threat.
Many sharks are illegally fished for their fins which are used to make shark fin soup. Hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, reef sharks and silky sharks are among the eleven species of sharks fished for their fins.
Often the fins are cut off and the bleeding fish are thrown back into the water.
Galapagos hammerhead sharks, are a tourist attraction and thus a source of income for the local community. However, there is concern about their current status.
There is a general perception among dive guides that numbers of sharks have declined in recent years. Growth rates for hammerhead sharks are slow, sexual maturity is late, and reproduction rates are low.
This is why the Galapagos National Park authorities are constantly monitoring the marine reserve of these Islands to protect its species.
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