Meet the Bonnethead, the First Known Omnivorous Shark

Photographed by Shane Gross at an underwater salad bar of seagrass, the bonnethead is the first known omnivorous shark

  • Lisa Moore, Photo By Shane Gross
  • PhotoZone
  • Jul 04, 2023

LATE-DAY SUMMER SUN streams through crystalline waters as a bonnethead shark glides past a seagrass meadow in the Florida Keys. One of nine species of hammerhead sharks, bonnetheads abound in shallow waters, where they feed on crab, shrimp, snails, bony fish and—remarkably—seagrass.

“I was a shark nerd as a kid, obsessed with the ocean,” says photographer Shane Gross. Fascinated by 2018 research finding that bonnetheads were the first known omnivorous shark—grazing on and obtaining nutrients from seagrass—Gross aspired to capture that unique behavior. To avoid spooking these shy sharks, he put his camera on the seabed then stood on a boat above it, his shutter linked to a remote, handheld trigger by a 25-foot cable. After trying for nine days over two different trips, he caught only this one ideal frame.

The photo is part of a larger story Gross is documenting about global seagrass beds, vital habitat for many ocean creatures. Using his work to inspire conservation, Gross believes “photos can change the world—or at least move the needle in the right direction.”

More from National Wildlife magazine and the National Wildlife Federation:

Making My World »
Blog: Sharks in the Parks »
See Last Issue's Nature's Witness »

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