Bonnethead Shark vs Hammerhead: Comparative Analysis


Bonnethead Shark vs Hammerhead: Comparative Analysis

Bonnethead and Hammerheads are two popular shark types. Let’s look at the key similarities and differences between them.

Bonnethead sharks are a species of the hammerhead genus. There are nine to ten varieties of hammerhead sharks, and bonnetheads are the smallest among them. Although there are several similarities between the different varieties of hammerhead sharks, they have their unique characteristics.

Notable Points :

CharacteristicBonnethead SharkHammerhead Shark
ClassificationSpecies of Hammerhead GenusVarious species within Hammerhead Genus
SizeSmallest among HammerheadsLarger, up to 20 feet
WeightUp to 24 pounds500 to 1,000 pounds (Great Hammerhead)
LifespanUp to 12 yearsUp to 20-30 years
HabitatWarmer regions, shallow watersTemperate/tropical regions, migratory
DietSmall fish, octopuses, clamsSquids, stingrays, larger fish, crustaceans
OmnivorousYes (also feed on seagrass)No
AppearanceShovel-shaped head, brown/gray bodyBroad head, olive-green/gray-green body
Aggressiveness towards humansNot aggressive, shy natureGenerally not aggressive unless provoked
EndangermentLeast Concern (IUCN Red List)Some species listed as “Endangered” or “Vulnerable”

There is a lot of speculation regarding bonnethead sharks and what makes them different from other hammerhead varieties. Let us look together at some of the most commonly asked questions in this regard. 

Image Credits: “Bonnethead Shark*” by MyFWC Florida Fish and Wildlife is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Is a bonnethead a hammerhead shark?

Bonnethead and hammerhead are two popular shark varieties. But are they the same thing? Let’s find out.

Bonnethead or bonnet shark is a smaller species of the hammerhead genus. There are certain key differences that separate them from other species of the hammerhead family. Other hammerhead varieties include winghead sharks, Carolina hammerheads, scoophead sharks, whitefin hammerheads, etc. 

There are several distinct characteristics of the bonnethead species, which makes them vastly different from other species. 

What is the difference between bonnetheads and other hammerhead sharks?

Image Credits: “Hammerhead shark” by suneko is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

As we have mentioned earlier, there are certain differences that separate bonnetheads from other hammerhead sharks. Let’s learn more in this regard.

Bonnetheads rely upon their pectoral fins for navigating waters, unlike other hammerhead sharks. This is because bonnetheads have large pectoral fins that enable them to swim effortlessly. Besides, unlike other hammerheads, these have a small hammer, and the head shape differs for the males and females of this species.

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Despite all the differences, bonnetheads are also quite similar to other hammerhead sharks since they belong to the same genus. 

What are the similarities between bonnetheads and other hammerhead sharks?

Image Credits: “Georgia Aquarium – Hammerhead Shark” by hyku is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Since bonnetheads are a species of hammerhead, they have certain similarities with other species. Let’s look at their similarities together. 

All hammerhead sharks have a tall dorsal fin, strongly curved fins, and long gill slits. Besides, their head shape is pretty similar, being either hammer-shaped (cephalofoil) or scalloped-shaped. Their hammer-like head shape is common to all sharks of this species, which is why they are named after it

Of course, these similarities are merely in terms of physicality. Hammerhead species are also quite similar in other ways. 

Are bonnethead sharks aggressive?

Bonnethead sharks have a small hammer and are quite active. Let’s figure out if they are aggressive water animals. 

Bonnethead sharks are neither aggressive nor dangerous to humans. They have a very shy nature and mostly keep to themselves, moving around on small grounds. They do not bite unless and until provoked. Hammerhead sharks, in general, can get quite defensive when provoked, and bonnetheads are no exception.

Hammerheads are aggressive while hunting and are constantly looking for smaller fishes, squids, octopuses, and so on to feed themselves. 

Bonnethead vs Hammerhead Size

Bonnetheads are also different from other hammerhead varieties in terms of size. Allow us to tell you more in this regard.

On average, most hammerhead sharks weigh 500 to 1,000 pounds, but bonnetheads weigh no more than 24 pounds. Similarly, hammerheads can grow up to 20 feet, whereas most bonnetheads are small and grow up to 3 to 5 feet at most. Since bonnetheads are small, they need to swim constantly to stay afloat in the waters. 

The Great Hammerhead is the largest species of hammerhead shark and can weigh up to 1,000 pounds. Besides, it can grow up to 20 feet.

Bonnethead vs. Hammerhead Lifespan

A commonly asked question is whether bonnetheads have a lifespan similar to that of other hammerhead species. Let’s learn more in this regard. 

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On average, most hammerheads live for up to 20 to 30 years, whereas the average lifespan of a bonnethead is at most of 12 years. Bonnetheads develop quicker than other sharks and the gestation period of female bonnethead sharks is also shorter than other varieties (4-5 months). 

Due to their small size, bonnetheads are often caught by fishermen or larger sharks, which makes them quite vulnerable to early deaths. 

Bonnethead vs Hammerhead Habitat

One interesting aspect about bonnethead sharks is that they differ from hammerheads on the basis of habitat as well. Let’s learn more in this regard. 

Bonnethead sharks are usually found in warmer regions, whereas hammerhead sharks in general can be found in temperate or tropical regions. Hammerheads are migratory animals that move towards the equator during chilly winters. That being said, bonnethead sharks stick to regions where the water is warmer than 70 ℉.

Bonnethead sharks can be found in shallow estuaries and muddy or sandy bottoms. They prefer flowing in shallow waters and remain quite active in these. 

Bonnethead vs Hammerhead Diet

Bonnetheads and hammerheads have similar dietary requirements. Allow us to tell you more about it. 

Bonnethead sharks feed on small fishes, octopuses, and clams, whereas larger hammerhead sharks feed on squids, stingrays, larger fishes, crustaceans such as eels and lobsters, and so on. It is worth mentioning that bonnetheads are deemed to be omnivores since they also feed on seagrass. 

All in all, although bonnetheads and hammerhead sharks have fairly similar diet requirements, the options for bonnetheads are limited since they are smaller creatures, quite vulnerable to attacks by larger sharks. 

Bonnetheads vs Hammerheads Identification

For a layperson, it isn’t easy to gauge the difference between bonnetheads and hammerheads. But, let’s learn about some basic differences in their appearance 

Bonnetheads have shovel-shaped, smooth heads, brown or gray bodies, and are smaller in size, whereas hammerheads, in general, are larger, olive-green or gray-green with white undersides. In addition, hammerheads have broader heads that provide them with excellent vision. 


Q: What is the difference between a bonnethead shark and a hammerhead shark?

A: The bonnethead shark and hammerhead shark are both members of the hammerhead shark family (Sphyrnidae), but they belong to different genera. The bonnethead shark belongs to the genus Sphyrna, specifically Sphyrna tiburo, while the hammerhead shark belongs to various species within the Sphyrna genus.

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Q: What are some types of hammerhead sharks?

A: Some types of hammerhead sharks include the great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran), winghead shark (Sphyrna tudes), winghead (Sphyrna zygaena), and scoophead (Sphyrna media). These are just a few examples, as there are several species within the hammerhead shark family.

Q: Where can bonnethead sharks and hammerhead sharks be found?

A: Bonnethead sharks can be found along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, while hammerhead sharks inhabit various regions, including the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and Gulf of Mexico.

Q: Are bonnethead sharks the smallest among the hammerhead sharks?

A: Yes, bonnethead sharks are the smallest among the hammerhead sharks. They are also known for their unique shape, with a shovel-like cephalofoil.

Q: Do bonnethead sharks have a bony head like other hammerhead sharks?

A: Like other hammerhead sharks, bonnethead sharks have a cephalofoil, but it is not as pronounced or bony compared to other hammerhead species.

Q: Are hammerhead sharks found in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans?

A: Yes, hammerhead sharks are found in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, as well as other coastal regions around the world.

Q: Are bonnethead sharks and hammerhead sharks aggressive like other shark species?

A: Like other sharks, bonnethead sharks and hammerhead sharks are predators. While they may show aggression towards prey, they generally do not pose a significant threat to humans.

Q: What do bonnethead sharks and hammerhead sharks eat?

A: Bonnethead sharks and hammerhead sharks primarily feed on small bony fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. Some species of hammerhead sharks also consume squid and stingrays.

Q: Are bonnethead sharks and hammerhead sharks endangered?

A: The bonnethead shark is listed as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Some species of hammerhead sharks, such as the great hammerhead, are listed as “Endangered” or “Vulnerable” due to overfishing and habitat degradation.


Bonnetheads and Hammerheads are quite different in several ways but what binds them together is their hammer-shaped head, similar diet, and habitat requirements. 

Bonnetheads are smaller animals of the hammerhead species and therefore share a lot of similarities with other sharks of the same species. However, what makes them unique is their small size and large pectoral fins. In addition, they prefer swimming in groups of 5 or 15. 

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