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The Gummy Shark is also known as Sweet William, Australian Smooth Hound, and Flake.
Scientific name.......Mustelus Antarcticus
Common names........Sweet William, Australian Smooth Hound, and Flake
The Gummy shark gets it name from its teeth, they are flat and arranged in a pavement-like pattern. They are a slender houndshark with an angular mouth, long upper labial furrows, widely separated nostrils. Second dorsal fin nearly as large as the first, that lack spines, relatively small pectoral and pelvic fins and a tail with a distinctive notch.
The maximum size the Gummy sharks grow to are about; females 5 1/4 feet and males 4 1/4 feet.
Gummy shark teeth are smooth, flat, and arranged in a pavement-like pattern, ideal for crushing rather than cutting its prey.
They are a bronzy gray shark with numerous white spots ( rarely with black spots ) on its back and sides, pale underside.
Because of their unique teeth they are able to crush crabs, shrimps, and shellfish they find on smooth sea bottoms.
No major migrations, although tagging has shown that a small number of female gummy sharks make long migrations across the ocean off southern Australia. Most travel only relatively short distances. The gummy shark often occurs in small schools composed predominantly of one sex and size group, and are most active at night.
They are commonly found in Southern Australia , in temperate waters on the continental shelf from shore down. Some also dwell on the continental slope, to depths of 1,150 feet. Divers will often see them lying on the seabed in shallow coastal waters.
They live for about 16 years.
The Gummy shark is ovoviviparous bearing 4-30 pups per litter, with 14 being the average, measuring 12-14 inches. Gestation period is 10-12 months and mature in one to two years.
Once a declining species now abundant.
In the past there was concern about declining stocks, in the 1920's the gummy sharks were sold to a booming Fish 'n' Chip trade for their meat known as "flake" from the Melbourne Wholesale Fish Market. During the second world war the supply of cod liver oil, used to supply vitamin A, from the North Atlantic was lost. The discovery of a high vitamin A content in gummy shark liver created a boom in targeted shark fishing by SA & Victorian based fishers to source this new market.
The end of the war coupled with the ability to create vitamin A artificially, lead a large number of fishers to diversify into other areas. This left a small fleet of full time and part time boats to target shark for their flesh and re-supply flake for SA & Victoria fish and chips.
The reason why it has been called 'Sweet William' is because of the skin and flesh of the gummy sharks have an offensive rank smell; therefore we suppose it was given that name ironically the title of 'Sweet William'.
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