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Meet mano kihikihi, the scalloped hammerhead shark

We see lots of sharks when we scuba dive in Hawaii especially off of the islands of Ni’ihau and Molokini and most of those sharks look very similar in body shape and color. From the six foot long white tipped reef shark to the giant tiger shark they basically just look like a shark is supposed to look like. When you first see mano kihikihi the Hammerhead Shark your eyes and your brain get confused about what you are looking at. It looks like a shark with its head replaced by a huge battle ax they used in the medieval time wars!

My fist Hammerhead Shark I saw when I was diving was in Wainiha Bay in Kauai and it went right under my 18 foot zodiac dive boat and it was longer than the boat and it was big around as a cow but it moved slow and peacefully by and I was just spellbound by this unusual creature that just did not look real. There are nine species of Hammerhead Sharks in the world and we have three in Hawaii but the giant species is very rare and hard to find while diving. The main species we have here is the smaller Scalloped Hammerhead that grows to about six feet long.

The blade-like hammer head has its eyes mounted on the outer edge. Along the bottom of the head are hundreds of electromagnetic receptors that can detect animals that live under the sand. These sharks cruise close to the bottom and rotate their head from side to side like someone using a metal detector at the beach. They can detect and dig out buried rays, octopus and other creatures that are completely buried.

Mano kihikihi are often seen in the fall where they come into shallow sandy bays like Kaneohe Bay on Oahu where they give birth to live young. The babies will remain in the bay for up to a year before they go out to sea. You can often see the babies while snorkeling in shallow water on the sandy sea floor.

Very little is known about the life cycle of the Hammerhead Sharks and recent satellite tagging studies show that they may spend a great deal of time way out at sea. I was in the Galapagos Islands off of Ecuador a year ago studying the large schools of hammerhead sharks that congregate once a year off the remote Darwin Island. The scientist tagged a few of the sharks and tracked them with a satellite. We were amazed to find out that the pregnant females traveled from the Galapagos all the way to Costa Rica to give birth!

The only main predator of mano kihikihi is man. The Chinese have killed hundreds of thousands of these amazing creatures out at sea to just cut their fins off of which they sell to make shark fin soup! Many countries like the US, Costa Rica and Ecuador protect their sharks but the species that travel the open ocean have little to no international protection.

Mano is the Hawaiian name for sharks and kihikihi means to “zigzag”. This describes the back and forth swimming pattern of the hammerhead. The Hawaiin Moorish Idol fish is also called kihikihi because it swims in the same zigzag pattern.

You can see mono in action in my movie The Worlds Guide To Hawaiian Reef Fish up on my underwater educational web page at www.underwater2web. Up on the web we are launching our world wide marine life educational series so there are lots of cool movies to watch especially if you have children that are interested in the sea and marine life.

Aloha from under the surf,
Source: The Garden Island

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