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On hammerhead sharks and their oddly located eyes (Science!)
So there's been plenty of speculation about the purpose the oddly shaped heads of hammerheads serve since they were discovered, but it's all pretty much just been conjecture. Various hypotheses have been proposed from the broad head providing additional lift during swimming, perhaps improving their sense of smell, to perhaps improving their field of vision with much disagreement about who's right.
Well there's finally some solid science on the matter and the results are pretty damn cool. There is now proof that hammerhead sharks have substantially better binocular vision (wider binocular field) than other sharks.
The team tested the field of view in each shark's eyes by sweeping a weak light in horizontal and vertical arcs around each eye and recorded the eye's electrical activity. Comparing the hammerheads with pointy nosed species, the team found that the scalloped hammerheads had the largest monocular visual field, at an amazing 182 deg., and the bonnethead had a 176 deg. visual field, which was bigger than that of the pointy nosed blacknose and lemon sharks, at 172 deg. and 159 deg., respectively.
But there's more!
Finally, the team factored in the sharks' eye and head movements and found that the forward binocular overlaps rocketed to an impressive 69 deg. for the scalloped hammerheads and 52 deg. for the bonnetheads. Even more surprisingly, the team realised that the bonnethead and scalloped hammerheads have an excellent stereo rear-view: they have a full 360 deg. view of the world.
Of course I'm not suggesting that this is the end of the matter. It's entirely possible there are other significant benefits of the shape of their heads, but it's nice to have some solid facts on the matter.