Catsharks are ground sharks of the family Scyliorhinidae. They are one of the largest families of sharks with around 160 species placed in 17 genera.[2] Although they are generally known as catsharks, many species are commonly called dogfish or gato. Like most bottom feeders, they feed on benthic invertebrates and smaller fish. Catsharks are not harmful to humans.

Temporal range: Upper Jurassic–Present[1]
Catshark oedv
Whitesaddled catshark, Scyliorhinus hesperius
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Chondrichthyes
Order: Carcharhiniformes
Family: Scyliorhinidae
T. N. Gill, 1862


Scyliorhinus canicula (Small-spotted catshark or dogfish), Ecomare, Texel, the Netherlands
Small-spotted catshark
Scyliorhinus canicula
Small-spotted catshark, Scyliorhinus canicula

The family includes 17 genera and over 150 species,[1] making it the largest family of sharks.[3]


  • Scyliorhinidae
    • Scyliorhininae
    • Galeinae
      • Pentanchini
      • Galeini
        • Galeina
        • Halelaelurina
    • Atelomycterininae
    • Schroedericthyinae

Anatomy and appearance

Catsharks may be distinguished by their elongated, cat-like eyes and two small dorsal fins set far back. Most species are fairly small, growing no longer than 80 cm (31 in); a few, such as the nursehound (Scyliorhinus stellaris) can reach 1.6 m (5.2 ft) in length. Most of the species have a patterned appearance, ranging from stripes to patches to spots.

Characteristics of genus Apristurus are mostly dark bodies, having a long anal fin that ends in front of where the lower caudal fin begins. The snouts of the members of Apristurus are flat. They also present upper and lower labial furrows.

The sonic hedgehog dentition expression is first found as a bilateral symmetrical pattern and is found in certain areas of the embryonic jaw.[4] Sonic hedgehog is involved in the growth and patterning of different organs.[5] Every 18–38 days the teeth are replaced as is a common characteristic of the developmental process of sharks.

The "swell sharks" of the genus Cephaloscyllium have the curious ability to fill their stomachs with water or air when threatened, increasing their girth by a factor of one to three.

Some catsharks, such as the chain catshark are biofluorescent.[6][7][8]


Catsharks are found around seabeds in temperate and tropical seas worldwide, ranging from very shallow intertidal waters to depths of 2,000 m (6,600 ft) or more, such as the members of genus Apristurus[9] The Red spotted catshark lives in the shallower rocky waters ranging from Peru to Chile and migrate to deeper waters during the winter months.[10] They are usually restricted to small ranges. Juvenile and adult chain dogfish live on the soft or rocky bottom of the Atlantic from Massachusetts to Nicaragua. Adults tend to live on the soft sandy bottoms possibly due to their need of egg deposition sites.[11]


Some catsharks do not undergo long distance migrations because they are poor swimmers. Due to being nocturnal, some species sleep close together in crevices throughout the day and then go hunting at night.[2] Some species such as the small spotted catshark, Scyliorhinus canicula, are sexually monomorphic and exhibit habitat segregation, where males and females live in separate areas; males tend to live in open seabeds, while females tend to live in caves.[12] Some species of catsharks may deposit egg cases in structured habitats, which may also act as nurseries for the newly hatched sharks.[11]


Katzenhai Ei-Kapseln
Catshark egg (mermaids' purse)

Many species of catshark, like the chain dogfish, are oviparous and lay eggs in tough egg cases with curly tendrils at each end, known as "mermaid's purses", for protection, onto the seabed.[13] It takes almost a year for a catshark to hatch from the egg. Instead of laying the eggs and letting them sit for a year, some species of catshark hold onto the egg until a few months before the shark hatches. Some catsharks exhibit ovoviviparity, aplacental viviparous, by holding onto the embryos until they are completely developed and then give live birth.[2] Some species of catsharks mate by biting and holding the female’s pectoral fins and wrestle her into a mating position.


The Australian marbled catshark, Atelomycterus macleayi, is a favored type for home aquaria, because it rarely grows to more than 60 cm (24 in) in length. The coral catshark, however, is the most common scyliorhinid in home aquaria.[3]


  1. ^ a b Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2009). "Scyliorhinidae" in FishBase. January 2009 version.
  2. ^ a b c Compagno, L. J; Dando, M; Fowler, S. L (2005). Sharks of the world. Princeton University Press. p. 186.
  3. ^ a b Michael, Scott W. (March 2004), "Sharks at Home", Aquarium Fish Magazine, pp. 20–29
  4. ^ Smith, M. M.; Frase, G. J; Chaplin, N.; Hobbs, C.; Graham, A. (April 7, 2009). "Reiterative pattern of sonic hedgehog expression in the catshark dentition reveals a phylogenetic template for jawed vertebrates". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 276: 1225–1233. doi:10.1098/rspb.2008.1526. PMC 2660956.
  5. ^ Dassule, Helene; Lewis, Paula; Bei, Marianna; Maas, Richard; McMahon, Andrew (October 24, 2000). "Sonic Hedgehog regulates growth and morphogenesis of the tooth". Development.
  6. ^ "Scientists Discover 180 Species of Glowing Fish". Retrieved 2015-07-08.
  7. ^ "Sharks Light Up in Neon Colors". Retrieved 2015-07-08.
  8. ^ Sparks, John S.; Schelly, Robert C.; Smith, W. Leo; Davis, Matthew P.; Tchernov, Dan; Pieribone, Vincent A.; Gruber, David F. (January 8, 2014). "The Covert World of Fish Biofluorescence: A Phylogenetically Widespread and Phenotypically Variable Phenomenon". PLoS ONE. 9 (1): e83259. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0083259. PMC 3885428. PMID 24421880.
  9. ^ Gomes, U. L.; Signori, C. N.; Gadig, O. B. (2006). "Report on the smallfin catshark Apristurus parvipinnis Springer & Heemstra (Chondrichthyes, Scyliorhinidae) in Western South Atlantic with notes on its taxonomy". Panamjas.
  10. ^ Farina, Jose M.; Ojeda, F. Patricio (May 3, 1993). "Abundance, Activity, and Trophic Patterns of the Redspotted Catshark, Schroederichthys chilensis, on the Pacific Temperate Coast of Chile". Copeia. 1993: 545. doi:10.2307/1447159.
  11. ^ a b Able, K.W.; Flescher, D (1991). "Distribution and Habitat of Chain Dogfish, Scyliorhinus retifer, in the Mid-Atlantic Bight". Copeia. doi:10.2307/1446270.
  12. ^ Wearmouth, V. J; Southall, E. J; Morritt, D; Thompson, R. C; Cuthill, I. C; Partridge, J. C.; Sims, D. W. (2012). "Year-round sexual harassment as a behavioral mediator of vertebrate population dynamics". Ecological Monographs. 82: 351–366. doi:10.1890/11-2052.1.
  13. ^ Castro, J. I; Bubucis, P. M; Overstrom, N. A (1988). "The Reproductive Biology of the Chain Dogfish, Scyliorhinus retifer". Copeia. doi:10.2307/1445396.

External links


Aulohalaelurus is a genus of catshark in the family Scyliorhinidae.

Australian reticulate swellshark

The Australian reticulate swellshark (Cephaloscyllium hiscosellum) is a little-known species of catshark, belonging to the family Scyliorhinidae. It is found off the coast of northwestern Australia at depths of 290–420 m (950–1,380 ft). This shark has a stocky body and a short, wide head with a capacious mouth. It is characterized by a striking dorsal color pattern of dark brown lines that trace a series of hollow saddles and narrow rings, on a light background. Like other swellsharks, this species can inflate itself when threatened. Its reproduction is oviparous.

Blue shark

The blue shark (Prionace glauca) is a species of requiem shark, in the family Carcharhinidae, that inhabits deep waters in the world's temperate and tropical oceans. Preferring cooler waters, blue sharks migrate long distances, such as from New England to South America. The species is listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN.

Although generally lethargic, they can move very quickly. Blue sharks are viviparous and are noted for large litters of 25 to over 100 pups. They feed primarily on small fish and squid, although they can take larger prey. Maximum lifespan is still unknown, but it is believed that they can live up to 20 years.


The bonnethead shark or shovelhead (Sphyrna tiburo) is a small member of the hammerhead shark genus Sphyrna, and part of the family Sphyrnidae. It is an abundant species on the American littoral, is the only shark species known to display sexual dimorphism in the morphology of the head, and is the only shark species known to be omnivorous.

Bullhead shark

The bullhead sharks are a small order (Heterodontiformes) of basal modern sharks (Neoselachii). The nine living species are placed in a single genus, Heterodontus, in the family Heterodontidae. All are relatively small, with the largest species reaching just 1.65 metres (5.5 ft) in maximum length. They are bottom feeders in tropical and subtropical waters.

The Heterodontiforms appear in the fossil record in the Early Jurassic, well before any of the other Galeomorphii, a group that includes all modern sharks except the dogfish and its relatives. However, they have never been common, and their origin probably lies even further back.

Carpet shark

Carpet sharks are sharks classified in the order Orectolobiformes. Sometimes the common name "carpet shark" (named so because many species resemble ornately patterned carpets) is used interchangeably with "wobbegong", which is the common name of sharks in the family Orectolobidae. Carpet sharks have five gill slits, two spineless dorsal fins, and a small mouth that does not extend past the eyes. Many species have barbels.

Cook's swellshark

The Cook’s swellshark (Cephaloscyllium cooki) is a little-known species of catshark, belonging to the family Scyliorhinidae. This shark is found in the Arafura Sea at a depth of 223–300 m (732–984 ft). It is a stocky-bodied shark with a short, broad head and a large mouth, and can be identified by the eight dark, pale-edged saddles along its grayish brown body and tail. The maximum known length of this species is 30 cm (12 in). Like other swellsharks, it can inflate itself with water or air when threatened.


Galeus is a genus of catshark, belonging to the family Scyliorhinidae, commonly known as sawtail catsharks in reference to a distinctive saw-toothed crest of enlarged dermal denticles, found along the upper edges of their caudal fins. They are found in the Atlantic, the western and central Pacific, and the Gulf of California, inhabiting deep waters at or close to the sea floor. Members of this genus are rather small, slim sharks with firm bodies and thick, rough skin. Their heads are usually fairly long and pointed, and have large mouths with well-developed furrows at the corners. They have large pectoral and anal fins, and two similar dorsal fins placed well back. Many species are ornately patterned with dark saddles and/or blotches. Sawtail catsharks feed on various invertebrates and fishes, and may be either egg-laying or live-bearing. These harmless sharks are sometimes caught as bycatch but are of minimal commercial value.


The sixgill sharks are a genus, Hexanchus, of deepwater sharks in the family Hexanchidae. These sharks are characterized by a broad, pointed head, six pairs of gill slits, comb-like, yellow lower teeth, and a long tail. The largest species can grow up to 8 m long and weigh over 600 kg (1320 lb). They are continental shelf-dwelling and abyssal plain scavengers with a keen sense of smell and are among the first to arrive at carrion, together with hagfish and rattails. They show a characteristic rolling motion of the head when feeding. They have been found at depths to 2,500 ft (760 m). Though only two extant species (the bluntnose sixgill shark and the bigeyed sixgill shark) were originally known, a third, the Atlantic sixgill shark, was found to exist.

Lemon shark

The lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris) is a species of shark from the family Carcharhinidae. Lemon sharks can grow to 3.4 metres (11 ft) in length. They are often found in shallow subtropical waters and are known to inhabit and return to specific nursery sites for breeding. Often feeding at night, these sharks use electroreceptors to find their main source of prey: fish. Lemon sharks enjoy the many benefits of group living such as enhanced communication, courtship, predatory behavior, and protection. This species of shark gives birth to live young, and the females are polyandrous and have a biennial reproductive cycle. Lemon sharks are not thought to be a large threat to humans.

Longfin sawtail catshark

The longfin sawtail catshark (Galeus cadenati) is a rare, little-known species of catshark, part of the family Scyliorhinidae. Once thought to be a subspecies of the roughtail catshark (G. arae) along with the Antilles catshark (G. antillensis), it inhabits deep water off the Caribbean coasts of Panama and Colombia. This slim-bodied species has a marbled dorsal color pattern and a prominent crest of enlarged dermal denticles along the dorsal edge of its caudal fin. It can be distinguished from similar species by its relatively longer anal fin and small adult length of under 35 cm (14 in). The longfin sawtail catshark is oviparous. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) currently lacks the data to assess its conservation status.

Peppered catshark

The peppered catshark (Galeus piperatus) is a common but little-known species of catshark, part of the family Scyliorhinidae, inhabiting depths of 130–1,326 m (427–4,350 ft) in the northern Gulf of California. It is found on or near the ocean floor, and conducts seasonal migrations, spending winter in deeper water. Reaching a length of 37 cm (15 in), this species has a slender grayish body with a fine covering of black dots. On the dorsal edge of its caudal fin is a prominent crest of enlarged dermal denticles. It is oviparous, with the reproductive period probably lasting from May to September. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the peppered catshark under Least Concern, as it faces no significant threats from human activity.


Schroederichthys is a genus of catshark in the family Scyliorhinidae.


Sharks are a group of elasmobranch fish characterized by a cartilaginous skeleton, five to seven gill slits on the sides of the head, and pectoral fins that are not fused to the head. Modern sharks are classified within the clade Selachimorpha (or Selachii) and are the sister group to the rays. However, the term "shark" has also been used for extinct members of the subclass Elasmobranchii outside the Selachimorpha, such as Cladoselache and Xenacanthus, as well as other Chondrichthyes such as the holocephalid eugenedontidans.

Under this broader definition, the earliest known sharks date back to more than 420 million years ago. Acanthodians are often referred to as "spiny sharks"; though they are not part of Chondrichthyes proper, they are a paraphyletic assemblage leading to cartilaginous fish as a whole. Since then, sharks have diversified into over 500 species. They range in size from the small dwarf lanternshark (Etmopterus perryi), a deep sea species of only 17 centimetres (6.7 in) in length, to the whale shark (Rhincodon typus), the largest fish in the world, which reaches approximately 12 metres (40 ft) in length. Sharks are found in all seas and are common to depths of 2,000 metres (6,600 ft). They generally do not live in freshwater although there are a few known exceptions, such as the bull shark and the river shark, which can be found in both seawater and freshwater. Sharks have a covering of dermal denticles that protects their skin from damage and parasites in addition to improving their fluid dynamics. They have numerous sets of replaceable teeth.Well-known species such as the great white shark, tiger shark, blue shark, mako shark, thresher shark, and hammerhead shark are apex predators—organisms at the top of their underwater food chain. Many shark populations are threatened by human activities.

Southern sawtail catshark

The southern sawtail catshark (Galeus mincaronei) is a species of catshark, part of the family Scyliorhinidae, endemic to southern Brazil. It inhabits deepwater reefs on the upper continental slope at a depth of 236–600 m (774–1,969 ft). Reaching at least 43 cm (17 in) in length, this slim-bodied species closely resembles the Antilles catshark (G. antillensis). It has a prominent crest of enlarged dermal denticles along the dorsal edge of the caudal fin, as well as a distinctive color pattern of dark oval blotches, outlined in white, along its back. The southern sawtail catshark is oviparous, with females producing reddish egg capsules. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has assessed it as Vulnerable; it is often taken as bycatch and may be threatened by intensifying squid fishing.


The Squalidae, also called dogfish sharks or spiny dogfishes, are a family of sharks in the order Squaliformes. They have two dorsal fins, each with smooth spines, but no anal fin, and their skin is generally rough to the touch. Unlike virtually all other shark species, dogfish sharks possess venom which coats their dorsal spines – this venom is mildly toxic to humans.

These sharks are characterized by teeth in upper and lower jaws similar in size; a caudal peduncle with lateral keels; the upper precaudal pit usually is present; and the caudal fin is without a subterminal notch.

They are carnivorous, principally preying upon organisms smaller than themselves.

The livers and stomachs of the Squalidae contain the compound squalamine, which possesses the property of reduction of small blood vessel growth in humans.Two genera are known: Squalus, which contains numerous species, and Cirrhigaleus, which has three species.

Tiger catshark

The tiger catshark (Halaelurus natalensis) is a species of catshark, belonging to the family Scyliorhinidae. It is found over sandy areas and near reef peripheries off South Africa and perhaps Mozambique, from close to shore to usually no deeper than 100 m (330 ft). Reaching a length of 50 cm (20 in), this small, slim shark has a broad, flattened head with an upturned snout tip. It can additionally be identified by its dorsal colour pattern of ten dark brown saddles on a yellowish brown background.

Bottom-dwelling and inactive, the tiger catshark feeds on a wide variety of fishes and invertebrates from on or near the sea floor. An oviparous species, the female retains her eggs internally until the embryos are at an advanced state of development, resulting in a relatively short hatching time after laying. Between 12 and 22 encapsulated eggs are produced at a time, which the female attaches to the bottom. The tiger catshark is caught incidentally by commercial and recreational fishers but has no economic value. It has been listed as Data Deficient by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), pending more information.

Tiger shark

The tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) is a species of requiem shark and the only extant member of the genus Galeocerdo. It is a large macropredator, capable of attaining a length over 5 m (16 ft 5 in). Populations are found in many tropical and temperate waters, especially around central Pacific islands. Its name derives from the dark stripes down its body, which resemble a tiger's pattern, but fade as the shark matures.The tiger shark is a solitary mostly nocturnal hunter. It is notable for having the widest food spectrum of all sharks, with a range of prey that includes crustaceans, fish, seals, birds, squid, turtles, sea snakes, dolphins, and even other smaller sharks. It also has a reputation as a "garbage eater", consuming a variety of inedible, man-made objects that linger in its stomach. Though apex predators, tiger sharks are sometimes taken by groups of killer whales. It is considered a near threatened species due to finning and fishing by humans.The tiger shark is second only to the great white in recorded fatal attacks on humans.

West African catshark

The West African catshark (Scyliorhinus cervigoni) is a catshark of the family Scyliorhinidae. It is found in the eastern Atlantic between latitudes 20° N and 17° S, at depths between 45 and 500 m. It can grow up to a length of 80 centimetres (31 in). At one time, the West African catshark was considered to be a subspecies of the nursehound, Scyliorhinus stellaris, but is now considered to be a separate species. The reproduction of this catshark is oviparous.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.