An Overview Of Smooth Hammerhead Sharks Which May Be Found In the Waters Around Cozumel
By Tom Seest
At TopCozumelNews, we help Cozumel tourists plan their trips and activities using information collected on trips to the beautiful island.
I’m not an expert on sharks, but I’ve done my research. I know that they’re apex predators, and they can be dangerous. But I also know that they’re not always looking to attack people. In fact, most shark attacks are caused by mistaken identity.
So, while I’m not going to go swimming with sharks any time soon, I’m not going to let my fear of them control my life. I’m going to enjoy the ocean and just be aware of my surroundings.
And if I do see a shark, I’m going to remember that they’re just animals, and they’re not out to get me. I’m going to stay calm and try to make myself look as big as possible. And if all else fails, I’m going to swim like a madman.
Cozumel is a large island in the Caribbean Sea and an idyllic cruise ship destination for scuba diving enthusiasts. Renowned for its impressive reefs and dive sites, Cozumel also provides visitors with ample opportunity to spot exotic marine life.
The dusky shark is a species of ridgeback shark with a short, rounded snout and characteristic dusky pigmentation on its pectoral and second dorsal fin tips.
Table Of Contents
- Are Smooth Hammerhead Sharks Found Around Cozumel?
- What Do Smooth Hammerhead Sharks Look Like Around Cozumel?
- How Big Do Smooth Hammerhead Sharks Get Around Cozumel?
- What Is The Habitat Of Smooth Hammerhead Sharks Around Cozumel?
- Do Smooth Hammerhead Sharks Attack Humans Around Cozumel?
- How to Respond to Smooth Hammerhead Sharks Attacks Around Cozumel?
- Are There Tips For People That Encounter Smooth Hammerhead Sharks Near Cozumel?
Cozumel may not have an extraordinary reputation for sharks, but its protected national marine park hosts Atlantic nurse sharks year-round and can often be encountered by divers on dive sites within it or at nearby Roca Partida which boasts one of the highest concentrations on Earth. While bull and whale sharks do not visit Cozumel directly, they can often be seen regularly in nearby Playa del Carmen and Isla Mujeres.
Florida smooth hammerhead sharks (Sphyrnidae: Somniossidae) are among the most frequently found species in Cozumel waters, making up approximately half of all Florida smooth hammerhead sightings. These small to medium-sized sharks feature classic hammerhead characteristics with their characteristic round head and flattened upper jaw, dark to light brown coloration, far back-set 1st dorsal fin, and unique nostril barbels which appear fang-like. Yet, they act as sensory appendages – reaching 14 feet maximum size!
Another interesting hammerhead species to watch for in the area are scalloped hammerheads (Somniossidae: Somniossidae). This shark species inhabits bottom waters with small mouths and an unusual hammer-shaped head which allows them to detect electrical impulses from prey and even their own movements! These sharks can often be found close to shorelines as well as along rocky or sandy bottoms.
Smooth Hammerhead Sharks are distinguished by their lack of an indentation on their heads (hence their name), as well as a curved snout and large eyes. Mature females can reach lengths of 4m when mature females reach maturity. Like other members of Sphyrnidae family, Smooth Hammerheads are viviparous species retaining fertilized eggs until giving birth and live young. Furthermore, like their peers, they feed off bony fishes as well as other sharks and rays when available.
Hammerhead sharks use the hammerhead shape of their heads for hunting by slapping the seafloor, which allows them to catch prey such as stingrays or other bottom feeders more effectively. Their electroreceptor sensory pores detect electricity released by other organisms which helps them find prey more effectively; their t-shaped heads also allow them to have wider fields of view when searching for food sources, and they can be found at many depths in water bodies worldwide.
Smooth Hammerhead Sharks have a significant effect on local marine ecosystems and are considered species of least concern by IUCN. Unfortunately, their slow growth rates and late sexual maturation make them vulnerable to overfishing; their fins are sought-after for the shark fin trade, or they’re caught accidentally when targeted fisheries capture all hammerhead species simultaneously, leaving their populations severely decimated.
Smooth hammerhead sharks can grow to over 6 meters in length and are considered vulnerable species, their numbers rapidly declining. Therefore, it is critical that we all exercise extreme care while swimming or boating around them, taking extra steps not to disturb these sharks in any way.
Smooth hammerheads inhabit waters worldwide and can be found anywhere temperate waters are found, from the east coast of North America and Canada to Brazil and Argentina, as they migrate in search of cooler waters during mass summer migrations.
Cat sharks are carnivorous fish that typically feed on bony fish, stingrays, and crustaceans. With excellent eyesight and scent senses to help locate prey quickly, females mature around one meter long while males reach approximately half that size. Vivariparously giving birth allows their young to develop within them; gestation periods typically span 10-11 months, with litters typically including 20-50 pups at birth.
If you are fortunate to encounter one of these magnificent creatures while diving Cozumel, chances are it will likely be at Palancar Reef – a dive site renowned worldwide for its colorful coral gardens and abundant tropical fish and marine life. Additionally, Palancar Reef boasts the world’s largest manta ray population during their main season from January to March.
Smooth hammerhead sharks are coastal predators that prey upon bony fish such as herring, mackerel, and seabass. They also hunt stingrays and squid, using both excellent eyesight and smell to locate prey quickly; they may also scavenge fishing lines to gain food sources.
Smooth hammerhead sharks typically live in shallow coastal waters in tropical regions at depths up to 55 meters, usually inhabiting shallow coastal waters near beaches in sandy, shallow areas where their eggs hatch live young via internal fertilization and internal fertilization, giving birth live with an average reproductive rate between 29-53 pups produced per litter in nursery habitats no deeper than 33 feet (10m).
Smooth hammerheads can be distinguished from other members of the hammerhead family by their characteristic cephalophoil head shape, or cephalophoil. It features broad and flattened body features with an unnotched anterior margin, and each nostril has indentions opposite it for improved breathing; finally, its mouth arches strongly upward with strong, arched lips. Pectoral fins have straight tips ending in nearly concave rear margins.
Smooth hammerheads are, unfortunately, overfished across their range. They are caught intentionally and as bycatch using various fishing gear such as gillnets, longlines, purse-seines, bottom trawls and handlines; each year 1.3 million fins from these animals are harvested for sale on the shark fin trade; as a result, their populations in many regions are declining, and they are listed by IUCN as Vulnerable species.
Smooth hammerhead sharks have an extremely low propensity for attacking humans even when provoked, though they have been known to do so when provoked. Instead, these opportunistic predators typically found in tropical waters are known for their insanely formed heads which allow for greater visual range than most other shark species and help them detect prey quicker. Furthermore, sensors along their heads detect electrical fields generated by prey animals, such as their preferred food: stingrays.
So diving around them should be an enjoyable and safe experience, provided nothing stresses or disturbs them. They are constantly aware of their environment, meaning that if something seems off to them, they will quickly respond, which also explains why they can be easily startled when approached by divers scuba divers, which explains why they often swim away when approached directly by one.
However, if a shark feels provoked or misidentifies a diver as a potential prey item, it may bite in self-defense or due to mistaken identity. Although rare, such incidences do happen, and it should be remembered that when they do attack people, it’s often done so in self-defense or due to confusion over-identification.
Note that hammerhead sharks do not target humans for meat; rather, we represent an increased threat to them and their natural prey. Therefore, it is crucial not to provoke sharks by acting in ways that might mislead them into targeting us instead of what their prey may be.
Though sharks do not possess an instinctual predatory tendency toward humans, they can still pose serious threats if provoked. Therefore, it is wise not to swim too close or act erratically around any shark in their presence.
As with other shark species, hammerheads are highly attuned and can detect vibrations more than a mile away using their highly evolved sensory organs. Their distinctive T-shaped heads boast eyes on either end of a “hammer,” expanding their field of vision further. Furthermore, these sharks also possess electroreceptor sensory pores capable of sensing electricity given off by prey items.
Hammerhead sharks use electrical information and magnetic sense to navigate through the seas. Hammerheads migrate great distances in search of suitable environments for mating and giving birth, often migrating over hundreds of miles at once.
Scuba divers may encounter hammerhead sharks in large schools on reefs in the ocean. Although typically less aggressive than some other shark species, these sharks may become territorial if threatened and begin protecting their young.
Hammerhead sharks are susceptible to predators such as other sharks and killer whales, making them vulnerable to keystone species that need protection due to overfishing, pollution, and bycatch fatalities, which have diminished their numbers significantly.
Sure, here’s a list of tips for individuals who might encounter Smooth Hammerhead Sharks:
- Stay Calm: If you spot a Smooth Hammerhead Shark, try to stay as calm as possible. Rapid movement or panic can attract the shark’s attention.
- Maintain Visibility: Always keep the shark in your field of view. If you can see the shark, you can predict its movements and react accordingly.
- Don’t Corner the Shark: Smooth Hammerhead Sharks, like most wild animals, are more likely to act defensively if they feel trapped. Make sure the shark has a clear escape route.
- Avoid High-Risk Areas and Times: Smooth Hammerhead Sharks are more active in the twilight hours (dawn and dusk) and in areas where their prey congregates. Avoid swimming during these times and in these areas if possible.
- Do Not Touch or Tease: Never attempt to touch, ride, or tease a shark. Not only is it dangerous, but it also contributes to the negative human impact on marine life.
- Bleeding or Open Wounds: Stay out of the water if you are bleeding or have an open wound. Sharks have a highly developed sense of smell and can detect blood from far away.
- Avoid Splashing: Try to keep your movements in the water as smooth and quiet as possible. Excessive splashing can mimic the movements of a wounded animal, which may attract sharks.
- Swim in Groups: Sharks are less likely to approach people if they are in a group rather than alone.
- Respect the Wildlife: Remember, when you enter the ocean, you are entering the home of countless marine species. Treat all sea life with respect and observe from a distance.
- Get Informed: Before you enter the ocean, get information about the presence and behavior of Smooth Hammerhead Sharks in the area. Local guides or authorities can provide valuable advice.
Always remember that shark attacks are extremely rare. Sharks are often misunderstood creatures that play a vital role in the ecosystem. Learning about them can help reduce fear and promote coexistence.
I’m no expert on sharks, but I know enough to stay out of their way. I’ve seen Jaws, and that was enough for me. I’m not sure what kind of waters sharks are drawn to, but I’m guessing it’s not the kind of water I want to be in. I’m more of a pool shark, myself.
I know that sharks are predators, and they’re not afraid to eat people. But I also know that they’re not mindless killing machines. They’re just animals trying to survive. So I try to give them the respect they deserve, even if I’m a little bit scared of them.
If I ever find myself in the ocean, I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for sharks. But I’m not going to let them ruin my enjoyment of the water. I’m just going to be careful and hope that they’re careful too.
Please share this post with your friends, family, or business associates who may visit Cozumel.