#SharkWeek Special: Behind the Scenes with Adventure Aquarium’s Great Hammerhead Shark

Here at Adventure Aquarium, one of our most unique animals is the great hammerhead shark, which is in fact, the only one on exhibit in the entire country!

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As you can guess, he gets a lot of attention from visitors and biologists alike. Our husbandry team takes great care to ensure that the hammerhead, along with the other fish, sea turtles, sharks and rays in our 760,000 gallon Ocean Realm (the hammerhead’s home), is well cared for; and, one of the important factors in maintaining the great hammerhead shark’s health is making sure he is well-nourished.

Biologist Liz Hann prepares to pole feed our great hammerhead shark

Biologist Liz Hann prepares to pole feed our great hammerhead shark from the top of Ocean Realm

The great hammerhead is fed six times a week, with a varied diet that consists of mackerel, herring, squid, blue fish, among other species. During each feed, he is fed around 2% of his body weight, which measures out to 900 – 1,000 grams of food. Due to the large amount of fish we feed the animals each day, the fish come to the aquarium frozen. When the fish is frozen, it loses some of its nutritional value. Therefore, our biologists will put a vitamin supplement inside the fish before feeding the sharks once a week, with our hammerhead receiving four and a half vitamins each feed.

Before even going to Ocean Realm to feed the great hammerhead, the biologists first get the vitamins and “fish of the day” to feed the shark. Once at Ocean Realm, there’s a specific procedure for feeding. First, the biologist will prepare the pole used to feed the sharks. The feed pole is around 12 feet long and has short, skinny prongs that stick out laterally at the bottom where the food is placed. Then, the biologist weighs one fish and records the weight on a form before sticking it on the pole. The biologist then taps the water with the pole, which signifies to the great hammerhead shark that it’s time for feeding! This procedure is repeated until the shark becomes full or he has eaten his entire meal.

Fish is placed at the end of the pole and dropped into Ocean Realm. Biologists tap the water with the pole, which signifies to the great hammerhead shark that it’s time for feeding!

Fish is placed at the end of the pole and dropped into Ocean Realm. Biologists tap the water with the pole, which signifies to the great hammerhead shark that it’s time for feeding!

Doesn’t seem too hard right? Well, sometimes competition can arise, even from our loggerhead sea turtles! The biologists work around this by having turtle-favorite treats like lettuce and veggies in case curiosity gets the better of the hammerhead’s shelled neighbors!

Loggerhead Bob checks out the feed action

Loggerhead Bob checks out the feed action

Curious sea turtles!

Curious sea turtles!

So what happens during a great hammerhead feed and what does it look like? Well, check out the exclusive video below!

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Remembering our Great Hammerhead Shark

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It is with heavy hearts that we announce that the larger of our two Great Hammerhead sharks died Wednesday after a diagnostic medical procedure.

There had been ongoing concerns about this shark’s health over the last several weeks, so on Wednesday our staff made the decision to perform some medical examinations in order to diagnose and help treat him.

Unfortunately, due to complications associated with the procedure, and despite tremendous efforts by our biologists and veterinary staff to do everything possible to save his life, he was unable to recover.

The Great Hammerhead first arrived at Adventure Aquarium in 2008 and soon held the distinction as being the only animal of its kind on exhibit in the country. Great Hammerheads are exceedingly rare in zoo or aquarium environments because of requirements for exhibition and transport challenges. In 2012, Adventure Aquarium welcomed a second, younger Great Hammerhead to the Ocean Realm exhibit, who is currently thriving and in great health.

“While we are all deeply saddened by this loss, we are grateful for the time we had with this extraordinary animal – for what we’ve learned about Great Hammerhead behavior; and the knowledge and experience gained from housing such a rarely-exhibited species,” said Adventure Husbandry Director Marc Kind. “This Great Hammerhead’s contribution to the public’s education of this endangered species will ensure that his legacy continues well into the future.”

Spotlight on Adventure Aquarium’s Great Hammerhead Sharks

Did you know?! Adventure Aquarium is proud to be the only aquarium in the United States to have Great Hammerhead Sharks on exhibit.

There are nine different species of Hammerheads in the world, and the Great Hammerhead is the largest!  Our sharks – Adventure Aquarium is home to 2! – are about 7 feet and 5 feet long.

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On August 29, 2008, we received our larger Great Hammerhead Shark. He is named after Beaker the Muppet because of the similarities of their mouths. Beaker came from the Florida Keys; Anchor, our smaller Great Hammerhead Shark, is also from the Florida Keys. Adventure Aquarium has been home to Anchor since September 16, 2011 and he got his name from a special Facebook contest we ran a while back!

Beaker and Anchor are fed 6 out of the 7 days of the week; they are given one day of fasting per week. Their diet of choice consists of whole fish, such as mackerel. To feed the sharks, our biologists attach whichever fish Beaker and Anchor order that day onto the end of a long pole. They need to be fed separately so that we can make sure they both get the correct amount of food and vitamins. Join us for a shark feeding on Saturday at 2:45 pm!

Beaker and Anchor hope to see you at their home inside Ocean Realm at Adventure Aquarium during Shark Week: LIVE!