The Great Hammerhead Shark Sphyrna mokarran is one of the strangest, most unique and memorizing sharks in the ocean.
I sat hovered down on the bottom of the ocean floor, 22ft max depth, and the sun shining above me in the warm Caribbean waters. I watched a forbidden dance right in front of me. I watched a show that moved back and fourth of the highest grace and respect. It was thrilling and inspiring, and I couldn’t take my eyes off the performers.
But seconds later gliding swiftly at an alarming rate towards me was one of the most graceful colossal creatures I have ever seen. Before I could even process how differently she glides than other sharks, she was directly over me, total eclipsing the sun, I sat in shadow for what seemed like a complete halt in time.
There was no fear factor. I cannot even explain the level of comfort that was in the environment. I looked up at her, just after I looked into here eye on the side, she was over me so closely, and she was grazing my head I could feel her. And I knew the reason why.
I have a few passions, and among sharks, engineering is one of them, so naturally I must appreciate the natural engineering of this amazing creature. Aphrodite, a 14-foot female Great Hammerhead shark, was by no means the largest Great hammerhead. Aphrodite, like all Great Hammerhead sharks, is unique to other shark species, and one of the most obvious astatically engineered differences is the head of the great Hammerhead shark. So let’s start with the head. It’s called a cephalofoil, which means, “flattened hammer”. But as an engineer, I want to know why she has a cephalofoil.
Aphrodite uses her cephalofoil in many ways. Notice her eyes are on both sides. This allows her to have a full 360-degree view of prey and all around her. As an aerospace engineer we work a lot with lift and drag. Aphrodite’s cephalofoil gives her lift, much like the wing of an airplane, bust at the front of her body. Well that makes sense when we see her powerful tail glide back and forth. So, her body is much more flexible too! That is why she glides and dances around me. She was designed and engineered that way. Aphrodite is more flexible than other species, and so combined with her cephalofoil, she can pivot and turn with greater speeds and much easier than other species.
Great Hammerhead sharks like all sharks have ampullae of Lorenzini, natural electrical sensors typically in the front and at some lateral lines of sharks that sense electrical emissions of other life. In other words, how sharks can sense prey beyond our typical senses, as we know them. Us engineers are always in awe of this engineering marvel of sharks. But what sets the Great Hammerhead shark apart from other sharks, is that the cephalofoil gives the ampullae of Lorenzini a much greater area of coverage, and thus giving Aphrodite an enhanced set of ampullae. I cannot imagine having super powers such as those. What a design. What an engineering marvel.
Now after she senses her prey, and successfully identifies her prey, mostly stingrays, she can then trap them under her cephalofoil. Aphrodite is a master design and seems to be carefully engineered to perfection.
But that leads me to a question. Does that mean Great Hammerhead sharks are smarter than other sharks? Their highly advanced design would suggest that. That is to be determined. One of the most recent studies is Hammerhead sharks and the use of sonar wave transmission. More on this as research advances. Great Hammerhead sharks are truly an engineer’s dream.