Great Hammerhead Shark (Monterey Bay Aquarium Collection from Safari Ltd)

The great white may be the most popular shark through its name, but another species probably has a more iconic appearance. Even the least knowledgeable will fail to confuse this fish with another species, the great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran). The great hammerhead is the largest of the Sphyrnidae family of hammerhead sharks, well known for their cephalofoil heads. As adults, this species ranges from about 3.5-6.1 meters in length and weighs between 230 kg to nearly 600kg. Like most sharks, female great hammerheads are the larger sex. These sharks exist across all the world’s tropical waters. Field observations suggest that the cephalofoil evolved to aid in prey handling, as it aids the shark in turning on a dime, sensing rays, and pinning them down. It was long believed the great hammerhead was a derived member of its family based on the assumption that cephalofoils were initially small and evolved to become larger. However, DNA evidence revealed that the great hammerhead is part of a very basal lineage within Sphyrnidae, meaning the first cephalofoils were large and grew smaller in other Sphyrna species. Due to their fins being valuable ingredients in shark-fin soup, hunts for the great hammerhead is putting this species on decline and is categorized as critically-endangered by the IUCN. Great hammerheads prey on rays, cephalopods, crabs lobsters, many fish species, smoothhound sharks, and their own species. While an apex predator in the conventional sense, great hammerhead sharks are preyed upon by tiger sharks, great whites, and killer whales.

To mark the first shark review of the year, I’d thought it be a convenient time to discuss the Monterey Bay Aquarium Collection’s great hammerhead. This will also be the last of the true sharks in MBA collection to be reviewed, as the only remaining chondrichthyans left are the sawfish and manta ray. The great hammerhead, like previously reviewed figures, is among the first 14 of the MBA collection to be released back in 1992, so lets see how well this figure holds up.

The MBA great hammerhead measures about 21.3 cm long. This places it in the 1:16-1:29 scale for the typical adult range and would correspond to a 4.26m specimen based on the advertised scale of 1:20.

Overall, I’d say the sculpt is very accomplished. It correctly has 5 gills and both their position and size appear to be accurate. The body and fins all seem to be appropriately proportioned. While achieving similar lengths to the great white, great hammerheads are much leaner, which is well-represented by this figure when compared  to the MBA great white. There’s also a nice detail where the dorsal fin has two nicks along the trailing edge. The cephalofoil also looks good, being relatively straight with the eyes in the appropriate position.

The ventral side looks pretty detailed, and the lack of claspers identifies this figure to be anatomically female. Overall the sculpt looks great. I don’t own any other great hammerhead figures, so I’m not sure if the MBA version still outclasses the competition, but overall it can still be said this figure’s sculpt was ahead of its time.

The paintjob is simple and very nice. We have a light gray for the top with countershading towards a white underbelly. This is perfectly accurate to the real animal. Now this is the ”remaster” of the original figure. One of the key differences for the remastered MBA collection was a switch to a matte finish. I generally believe that worked to the detriment for the cetaceans, but greatly benefited the realism of their shark figures.

Now we’ll take a quick look at the classic figures. The biggest difference in these figures is that these chose to represent the more light brown and olive-colored morphs within this species.

This one only has very subtle countershading, almost making this figure look monotone. The brush-strokes are also very obvious on this one. Not really a great look.

This one has more pronounced countershading, though the brush strokes are still obvious. Nonetheless, still better than the other version. I am not entirely sure which version is older, they might even be contemporaneous.

I can definitely place MBA’s great hammerhead among the better-aging figures within the collection. The older versions have some issues with their original paintjobs, but the current edition being sold now is borderline flawless. Unless you’re aiming for a smaller scale for your collection, I would highly recommend purchasing this figure while Safari Ltd.’s still producing it. After 30 years, who knows when the next figure is going to get retired in this collection?

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Comments 5

  • Still a great figure, and the only decent great hammerhead that I’m aware of.

    • I have the Wild Safari Sealife version, which I think is pretty good, too! Although maybe shark enthusiasts will pick up on faults I likely may have missed 🙂

  • If I had to give up my entire collection and could only keep one figure, this is the one I’d keep. It is the figure that started my entire collection way back in 1992, and it remains my most cherished. Some of these figures over the years have suffered from droopy heads and eyes that are pointed down, but that first figure of mine has remained perfect in every way. While there are other Great Hammerhead figures available – obviously, the Wild Safari, but also the recently released Schleich figure – the MBA is still probably the most accurate. The Wild Safari figure is not terrible by any means, but the head should be wider and the fins need ditch the creasing or whatever that is supposed to be. The dorsal fin of the Wild Safari figure is actually pretty decent in shape and size; the MBA figure could stand to have the dorsal fin enlarged slightly and made more falcate. The new (2020 or 2021) Schleich figure is a very nice sculpt of a young, mature male shark, and it fits very nicely with the MBA figure. Very nice review for my favorite figure.

  • […] dwindling down to the remaining 5 species. The bottlenose dolphin, like the recently-reviewed hammerhead shark, is among the original 14 to be released in 1992. 30 years later, we’ll now assess where this […]

  • Great figure! Though it lacks nostrils and has been outclassed by the 2020 schleich one.

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