Also known as the slender hammerhead, the winghead shark is named after its exceptional cephalofoil hammer-shaped head which can be almost as wide as half its body length.
The unusual shape of this species’ head is known to assist with hydrodynamics but is thought by experts to aid in the detection of electric fields produced by prey, due to the increased surface area and number of the Lorenzini ampullae – small sense organs.
They are thought to reach maturity at 7 years and can live up to 21 years. Due to its slow maturity, this species is susceptible to large population declines. They are viviparous (give birth to live young), producing between 6 and 25 pups per litter every year with a gestation period of 8 to 11 months.
The winghead shark is heavily exploited across the majority of its range by overfishing. Like all hammerhead sharks, the large hammer-shaped head makes this species vulnerable to accidental entanglement in fishing nets, such as gillnets and trawls. It is now rarely encountered in markets and landing surveys in India and Indonesia, suggesting the population has already decreased significantly as a result of overfishing. The meat and liver are used as protein and oil sources, respectively.
According to the IUCN Red List of threatened species there are currently no conservation actions in place for this species.
- Order: Carcharhiniformes
- Family: Sphyrnidae
- Population: Unknown
- Trend: decreasing
- Size: Up to 186cm (?)
- Depth Range (m): Coastal
This species occurs in the Indo-West Pacific from the Arabian/Persian Gulf through to south Asia and northern Australia.
Habitat and Ecology
The winghead shark inhabits continental and island shelves and is able to enter into estuaries found mainly in coastal nearshore waters. It feeds on small fishes, crustaceans and cephalopods. The species is familiar to local fishers within concentrated areas and is rarely encountered outside of these small patches – suggesting a localised distribution, however further surveys are required to confirm this.