The Bonnethead Fish (Sphyrna tiburo), commonly known as a bonnet shark or shovelhead, is a small hammerhead shark belonging to the Sphyrna genus and family Sphyrnidae. It is a common species in the North Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico littoral zones. Because this marine creature prefers warmer water, it migrates to Florida, where the water is generally warmer. Oceans, bays, insular shelves, estuaries, coastal areas, mud bottoms, and coral reefs are all places where they can be found.

The only sharks known to have sexual dimorphism in head morphology are bonnethead sharks. Males have a prominent protrusion at the front margin of the cephalofoil, whereas females have a broadly rounded head. The rostral cartilages of men elongate with the onset of sexual maturity, forming a bulge that coincides temporally with the elongation of the clasper cartilages.

Bonnethead in its habitat

They are the only omnivore shark species known. A bonnethead shark’s smaller cephalofoil isn’t as effective, therefore they have to rely on a combination of cephalofoils and huge pectoral fins for much of their motility. The pectoral fins of bonnethead sharks are larger and more developed.

Distribution of Bonnethead Fish

Oceans, bays, insular shelves, estuaries, coastal areas, mud bottoms, and coral reefs are all places they can be found. They prefer the subtropical and tropical seas around the littoral zones of North American shores. They encompass the north Atlantic, Florida seas, western Atlantic, eastern Pacific Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico, and stretch from North Carolina to Brazil and southern California to Ecuador.

Body Characteristics of Bonnethead Fish

  • Bonnethead Fish dwell in big groups known as shivers or ‘colonies,’ with each shiver containing four to fifteen sharks.
  • The shark has the smallest cephalofoil (hammerhead) of all Sphyrna species, with a broad, smooth, spade-like head.
  • Their eyes are situated between the anterior margin of their flattened head and the smooth rounded lobes of their lobes, allowing for a wider field of view.
  • They have an arched mouth with expanded dentition, with the margins of the mouth preventing posterior to oculofacial development, or lateral head expansion.
Bonnethead fish during spawning period

The body is grey-brown on top and lighter underneath. Bonnethead sharks are typically 80–90 cm long, with a maximum length of 150 cm. In general, females are larger than males. Their body color varies from gray-brown to gray-white, with hints of green on occasion. These sharks have dark speckles on the sides of their bodies. Bonnetheads are gray on top and white on the bottom, with the upper and top sections being gray and the base being white.

Habitat of Bonnethead Fish

Marine, coastal, and shallow bays are the primary habitats of bonnethead sharks. They are usually observed along the deep Florida shoreline as well as the western Atlantic subtropical shores. Reefs, insular shelves, high estuaries, and shallow bays are all places where they can be found. In order to find a proper water temperature, Bonnethead sharks may often travel large distances.

Spawning of Bonnethead Fish

Female Bonnethead sharks (Sphyrna tiburo) reproduce sexually and are viviparous, meaning they give birth to their young or pups. These sharks congregate in mating groups during or near the spawning season. In shallow waters, females give birth to their pups. Males achieve sexual maturity at about 24 inches (81 cm) and females around 32 inches (81 cm) (61 cm).

Bonnethead fish navigating through the water

In the late summer and early fall, four to twelve puppies, measuring 12 to 13 inches, are born. The gestation period of bonnethead sharks is one of the shortest among sharks, lasting approximately 4.5–5.0 months. By parthenogenesis, a bonnethead female produced a pup.

Diet of Bonnethead Fish

The bonnethead shark family is omnivorous, meaning they eat both marine and seagrass prey. Females are more likely than males to prey and devour because they require a higher metabolism and energy rate to breed and give birth to young.

Bonnetheads are diurnal, meaning they forage throughout the day and are most active in the late afternoon. Crustaceans like blue crabs make up the majority of their diet, although they also eat small bony fish, mollusks, shrimp, snails, and bivalves. Seagrasses are also a part of their diet. The life expectancy of this shark species is roughly 12 years.



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Kehinde Ezekiel is a freelance writer who has covered many topics, including home improvement, gardening, pets, tech, and parenting.

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