, Volume 61, Issue 2, pp 125-133

Head Morphology and Electrosensory Pore Distribution of Carcharhinid and Sphyrnid Sharks

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Abstract

Selection to maximize electroreceptive search area might have driven evolution of the cephalofoil head morphology of hammerhead sharks (family Sphyrnidae). The enhanced electrosensory hypothesis predicts that the wider head of sphyrnid sharks necessitates a greater number of electrosensory pores to maintain a comparable pore density. Although gross head morphology clearly differs between sphyrnid sharks and their closest relatives the carcharhinids, a quantitative examination is lacking. Head morphology and the distribution of electrosensory pores were compared between a carcharhinid, Carcharhinus plumbeus, and two sphyrnid sharks, Sphyrna lewini and S. tiburo. Both sphyrnids had greater head widths than the carcharhinid, although head surface area and volume did not differ between the three species. The raked head morphology of neonatal S. lewini pups, presumably an adaptation to facilitate parturition, becomes orthogonal to the body axis immediately post-parturition whereas this change is much less dramatic for the other two species. The general pattern of electrosensory pore distribution on the head is conserved across species despite the differences in gross head morphology. Sphyrna lewini has a mean of 3067 ± 158.9 SD pores, S. tiburo has a mean of 2028 ± 96.6 SD pores and C. plumbeus has a mean of 2317 ± 126.3 SD pores and the number of pores remains constant with age. Sphyrnids have a greater number of pores on the ventral surface of the head whereas C. plumbeus has an even distribution on dorsal and ventral surfaces. The greater number of pores distributed on a similar surface area provides S. lewini pups with a higher density of electrosensory pores per unit area compared to C. plumbeus pups. The greater number of ampullae, the higher pore density and the larger sampling area of the head combine to provide hammerhead sharks with a morphologically enhanced electroreceptive capability compared to comparably sized carcharhinids.