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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Scyliorhinidae (cat sharks)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Chondrichthyes > Elasmobranchii > Galeomorphii > Carcharhiniformes

Small sharks with slit-like eyes, small teeth, and the 1st dorsal fin over or behind pelvic fins. Most lay eggs in elongated egg-cases, but some are livebearing. Over 103 species, with at least 15 in the area.

Species in Southern Africa

Apristurus manis (Ghost catshark)


Apristurus microps (Smalleye catshark)

A plain, dark, stout catshark with small eyes, a thick long broad snout, mouth projecting well in front of eyes, long labial furrows, and very short pectoral fins. Colour uniform black, dark to medium brown, or grey, no markings

Apristurus saldanha (Saldanha catshark)

A plain, dark deepwater catshark with moderately large eyes, a thick long broad snout, long labial furrows, stout body, mouth not projecting in front of eyes, and large pectoral fins. Colour uniform grey-brown.

Apristurus sp. (Black wonder catshark)


Bythaelurus lutarius (Mud catshark)

A slender, plain brown dwarf catshark with a moderately long snout, short labial furrows, and no crest of enlarged denticles on caudal fin.

Cephaloscyllium sufflans (Balloon shark)

A large, stout catshark with a broad, rounded snout, no labial furrows, and 2nd dorsal fin much smaller than 1st. Colour pale grey to brown above, with indistinct darker saddle-marks variably present, underside white.

Galeus polli (African sawtail catshark)

A long-nosed, narrow-headed dwarf catshark with large eyes, small labial furrows, and a prominent crest of enlarged sawtooth-like denticles on the upper caudal margin. Colour bronze-grey above, lighter below, often with several darker saddle blotches but sometimes plain.

Halaelurus lineatus (Lined catshark)

A catshark with an upturned knob on the snout, a narrow head, and numerous small dark spots on the body. Colour pale brown with numerous pairs of narrow, vertical, dark brown stripes outlining obscure dusky saddles.

Halaelurus natalensis (Tiger catshark)

A yellowish-brown catshark with a prominent upturned knob on snout, broad head, no spots, and pairs of bold, broad, vertical, dark brown stripes outlining dusky saddles.

Haploblepharus edwardsii (Puffadder shyshark)

A shyshark with a typical (southeastern Cape) colour form, sandy brown with seven dark reddish-brown saddles bordered by black and numerous small dark brown and white spots, white below. The rare Natal form (illustrated, possibly a distinct species) has much darker brown saddles with irregular white spots on a cream background, white below.

Haploblepharus fuscus (Brown shyshark)

The largest shyshark, usually plain yellowish brown above, yellowish below, some with small light spots and indistinct brown saddles.

Haploblepharus pictus (Dark shyshark)

A shyshark with 7 dark brown or blackish dorsal saddles and additional dark blotches on yellowish-brown body and fins, dark markings with few large light spots but without black edges.

Haploblepharus kistnasamyi (Natal shyshark)

Holohalaelurus punctatus (African spotted catshark)

A broad-headed catshark with small dark brown close-set spots on a yellow-brown or orange-brown background, small black pores on underside of head and body, and no labial furrows.

Holohalaelurus fusus (Natal Izak)

Holohalaelurus regani (Izak catshark or Halalujah shark)

A broad-headed catshark with crowded dark brown spots on a yellowish background, producing a netlike pattern of light lines, small black pores on the white underside, and no labial furrows. Young below 23 cm TL are blackish with white side spots.

Poroderma africanum (Striped catshark or pyjama shark)

A large catshark with long horizontal black stripes and short nasal barbels.

Poroderma pantherinum (Leopard catshark)

A stocky catshark with long nasal barbels and a highly variable colour pattern of black spots, rings, and lines in horizontal rows on a gray to whitish background, underside white. Illustrated are a typical `pantherinum' form with lines and rosettes of spots and two extremes, a `marleyi' form with large dark spots (formerly considered a separate species), and a `salt and pepper' form with small, densely packed black spots. Intermediates between these extremes are common, and some individuals have the rosettes partly fused to form irregular longitudinal stripes.

Scyliorhinus capensis (Yellowspotted catshark)

A handsome catshark with bright yellow or golden spots on a dark grey, barred body. 2nd dorsal fin much smaller than 1st.

Text by Leonard J.V. Compagno, David A. Ebert and Malcolm J. Smale