The great hammerhead shark, Sphyrna mokarran, is a cosmopolitan species that is caught in a variety of fisheries throughout much of its range. The apparent decline of great hammerhead shark populations has reinforced the need for accurate biological data to enhance fishery management plans. To this end, age and growth estimates for the great hammerhead were determined from sharks (n = 216) ranging in size from 54- to 315-cm fork length (FL), captured in the Gulf of Mexico and north-western Atlantic Ocean. Growth curves were fitted using multiple models and evaluated using Akaike’s information criterion. The von Bertalanffy growth model was the best fitting model, with resulting growth parameters of L∞ = 264.2-cm FL, k = 0.16 year–1, t0 = –1.99 year for males, and L∞ = 307.8-cm FL, k = 0.11 year–1, t0 = –2.86 year for females. Annual band pair deposition was confirmed through marginal-increment analysis and a concurrent bomb radiocarbon validation study.
Great hammerheads have one of the oldest reported ages for any elasmobranch (44 years) but grow at relatively similar rates (on the basis of von Bertalanffy k value) to other large hammerhead species from this region. The present study is the first to provide vertebral ages for great hammerheads.