The National Aquarium and its Animal Care and Rescue Center are temporarily closed in response to COVID-19. Help support us while we are closed by Donating Today.

Bonnethead shark

Bonnethead Shark

Sphyrna tiburo

Bonnethead shark Bonnethead shark National Aquarium – Bonnethead shark Bonnethead shark

While many visitors point and declare "hammerhead!" when they see this shark cruising through the exhibit, the bonnethead shark is easily distinguished from its much larger cousin.

This shark’s head is considerably narrower than that of the hammerhead and is much more rounded in the front—hence its other common name, the shovelhead shark.

A hammerhead’s nostrils are elongated into grooves that extend along the front of the head. These grooves are absent in the bonnethead shark, whose nostrils are located close to the eyes, near the ends of its flattened spade-shaped head.

The sides and back of the bonnethead’s body are greenish-gray to dark brown with a paler underside.

Did You Know?

The bonnethead is one of the smallest members of the hammerhead genus.


Bonnethead sharks feed primarily on crustaceans, but they also eat clams, octopuses and small fish.


Bonnetheads are the second smallest shark in the hammerhead family, averaging 30 to 48 inches, with a maximum reported total length of 59 inches. They can weigh up to 24 pounds.


The bonnethead shark is found in tropical and subtropical waters on both coasts of North America, from North Carolina to southern Brazil, including the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, and from Southern California to Ecuador. It lives in estuaries and shallow bays with mud or sand bottoms and in coral reefs.

Population Status

This species is not threatened.


Some large sharks, such as tiger and lemon sharks, prey on bonnetheads.

Back to the Top