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Swell Shark

Threat Level:  low

 

 

 

  • SWELL SHARK

Scientific name..........Cephaloscyllium Ventriosum

Family name..............Scyliorhinidae

 

  • GENERAL DESCRIPTION

The swellshark cannot be mistaken for any other shark. It is a large strongly varigated catshark with a broad rounded snout and small dorsal fins on the rear half of the body, and is covered in large, spiky denticles. These sharks are named swellsharks, because they are able to balloon themselves up by swallowing water when distressed. They position themselves in a rock crevice or other narrow hiding place, until they are wedged tightly inside and are safe from potential predators.

 

  • SIZE

These sharks can reach a maximum length of 3.6 feet. Males attain maturity at 32.2 to 33.5 inches. These sharks hatch at 6 inches long.

 

  • TEETH

They have extremely large jaws with small pointy teeth, very effective for capturing fish. They have up to 70 rows of multicusped teeth in the upper jaw and 65 rows in the lower jaw.

 

  • COLOR

The patterning of dark brown blotches and saddle-like patterns on the yellow to brown background of its back, along with small dark spots on its belly and flanks, provides good camouflage for this sedentary shark.

 

  • FEEDING HABITS

These sharks are nocturnal and feeds on fish and crustaceans. This shark is a sit-and-wait predator ready to ambush their prey. Swellsharks have two different feeding techniques. With their larger size of jaws and oral cavity it allows them to swallow larger prey and create a greater vacuum when inhaling their catch. One is the "gulp", it will rapidly open its mouth and expand its gill and mouth cavities to suck in its prey that has come too close. The second technique is the "yawn", when a prey moves toward the swellshark it will slowly open its mouth and wait until the prey fish swims into its gaping jaws. Because of the great number of small, multipronged teeth helps the sharks to grasp slime-coated fishes.

 

  • BEHAVIOUR

Relatively sluggish and mainly nocturnal, lies motionless in rocky caves and crevices by day, often in small groups, and swims slowly at night. Inflates stomach when disturbed to wedge itself into crevices.

 

  • HABITAT

Swellsharks are found in temperate eastern Pacific, from central California, USA, to southern Mexico, and central Chile. You will see this species in caves and among shallow rocks and crevices around kelp forests, at depths from 30' to 200' feet.

 

  • REPRODUCTION

The swellsharks are oviparous, with the female laying large, greenish amber eggs among seaweeds. These purse-shaped eggs hatch after 7 to 10 months, depending on the temperature of the water. The young are about 6" inches long. The unhatched juveniles use their enlarged dermal denticles to pry themselves free of the egg case.

 

  • SHARK ATTACKS

This shark is quite shy and harmless unless handled or provoked.

 

  • POPULATION REPORT

Not uncommon. Not commonly fished.

 

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