The great hammerhead is particularly keen on feeding on stingrays, despite the danger of their barbs. The hammerhead pins down each ray with its hammer and then bites chunks from the wings until the ray is immobilised (4). It also feeds on groupers, sea catfish, small, bony fish, crabs, squid, other sharks and lobsters (2). It can be cannibalistic although it is not known what triggers this behaviour. Feeding mainly at dusk, the great hammerhead uses an electro-sensory system to locate prey; sensing the weak electric field produced by all living organisms. Larger sharks may prey on juvenile great hammerheads but adults have no natural predators (3).
Mating has rarely been observed in this species, but unlike other sharks it is known to mate at the surface (3). Males use extensions of the pelvic fins called ‘claspers’ to transfer sperm to the female (5), resulting in a pregnancy lasting 11 months (3). Young are born live in the spring or summer (3).
The function of the hammer is much discussed and a great many theories have been put forward as to its purpose. Amongst these theories, the most popular are that it helps the great hammerhead to scan larger areas of the ocean floor for food, and that it maximises the area of the sensory organs (known as the ampullae of Lorenzini) that can detect chemical, physical and thermal changes in the water, as well as electric fields (5).