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Enhanced visual fields in hammerhead sharks
D. M. McComb, T. C. Tricas, S. M. Kajiura


Several factors that influence the evolution of the unusual head morphology of hammerhead sharks (family Sphyrnidae) are proposed but few are empirically tested. In this study we tested the ‘enhanced binocular field’ hypothesis (that proposes enhanced frontal binocularity) by comparison of the visual fields of three hammerhead species: the bonnethead shark, Sphyrna tiburo, the scalloped hammerhead shark, Sphyrna lewini, and the winghead shark, Eusphyra blochii, with that of two carcharhinid species: the lemon shark, Negaprion brevirostris, and the blacknose shark, Carcharhinus acronotus. Additionally, eye rotation and head yaw were quantified to determine if species compensate for large blind areas anterior to the head. The winghead shark possessed the largest anterior binocular overlap (48 deg.) and was nearly four times larger than that of the lemon (10 deg.) and blacknose (11 deg.) sharks. The binocular overlap in the scalloped hammerhead sharks (34 deg.) was greater than the bonnethead sharks (13 deg.) and carcharhinid species; however, the bonnethead shark did not differ from the carcharhinids. These results indicate that binocular overlap has increased with lateral head expansion in hammerhead sharks. The hammerhead species did not demonstrate greater eye rotation in the anterior or posterior direction. However, both the scalloped hammerhead and bonnethead sharks exhibited greater head yaw during swimming (16.9 deg. and 15.6 deg., respectively) than the lemon (15.1 deg.) and blacknose (15.0 deg.) sharks, indicating a behavioral compensation for the anterior blind area. This study illustrates the larger binocular overlap in hammerhead species relative to their carcharhinid sister taxa and is consistent with the ‘enhanced binocular field’ hypothesis.


  • Supplementary material available online at http://jeb.biologists.org/lookup/suppl/doi:10.1242/jeb.032615/-/DC1

  • The authors gratefully acknowledge funding to D. McComb from the Newell Graduate Grant at Florida Atlantic University, and PADI Project A.W.A.R.E. and to S. Kajiura from the National Science Foundation (IOS-0639949). This is contribution number 1358 from the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.

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