This week’s featured species looks like it is always ready for bed! The Pyjama Shark (Poroderm africanum), also known as the striped catshark, is a strikingly beautiful small species found off the coasts of South Africa. The pyjama shark is easily recognizable by its solid striped pattern that runs from the tip of its snout down to the caudal fin (Tricas et al, 1997). Just like they are wearing pyjamas! Like other catsharks, it has a stout, well tapered body, ending with a relatively short tail fin (Compagno, 1984). Have you ever seen a more adorable shark?! If you’re like me, you may have “squeed” when you saw this shark for the first time. Don’t worry, it’s a completely normal reaction… or so I tell myself!
Don’t let their cuteness fool you, these little sharks are admirable hunters in their own right. They have a sizable mouth for their small stature that is full of teeth adapted to their favorite prey: octopus. They have slender teeth with a central cusp and smaller lateral cusplets that are ideal for gripping slippery prey (Human, 2006). Their teeth are situated in such a way so that when the mouth is closed, the upper teeth are still exposed. Of course, they use much more than their teeth while hunting. Like other elasmobranchs, they use their keen electrosenses to seek out octopuses that are true masters of disguise! Check out this sneaky octopus try to hide from the pyjama shark.
BBC America (Videographer). (2018 February 17). The Ultimate Octopus Disguise | Planet Earth: Blue Planet II [Video Clip]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/
The pyjama shark is relatively small, reaching only 3 feet (0.93 m) when fully grown (Compagno, 2009). As midlevel predators, these sharks fall prey to other larger predators. In the temperate waters of South Africa, the pyjama shark often falls victim to the apex broadnose sevengill shark (Notorynchus cepedianus) (Ebert, 1991). In fact, depending on the prey availability, the diet of a sevengill shark can be made of mostly other chondrichthyans (Ebert, 1991)! As a defense mechanism, the pyjama shark will curl itself into a tight ball, with its tail covering its head, among a rocky crevice or coral (Martin, 2010).
The pyjama shark is oviparous, which means they lay eggs instead of giving live birth like some other elasmobranchs (Compagno, 2009). It’s not certain how many eggs a female can lay per year; but when they do, they lay two eggs at a time. A female has two oviducts, which means she develops and lays one egg from each oviduct at a time (Compagno, 2009). When the female is ready to lay her eggs, she finds a safe area of rocky coral or kelp bed to ensure the embryos are secured for their five to six month incubation. The female will swim a tight circle around the spot she has chosen, as she does she produces the egg. The long tendrils become stuck around the substrate, anchoring the egg in place (Tricas et al, 1997; Compagno, 2009). Watch as this female lays one of her egg cases (beware the music is loud in this video)!
Cape RADD (Videographer). (2018 June 14). Rare footage of a Pyjama Shark doing something species- Cape RADD (2018) [Video Clip]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/
After several months of incubating in their safe, secured egg cases, the pups hatch. They are only 1/2 foot (15 cm) in length when they are born. The pyjama shark has a very slow growth rate and will take 10 to 13 years to reach sexual maturity. Until then, these fully developed little pups are ready to hone their hunting skills on small shrimps and fishes in relative safety (Compagno, 2009). There is no active fishery for the pyjama shark, though they are sometimes taken as bycatch in unregulated inshore line and net fisheries. When caught, they are rarely utilized for meat or fins, though they are sometimes used as lobster bait (Fowler, & Cavanagh, 2005). There is currently no evidence of population decline, and so there is no specific conservation efforts for this species. However, nursery areas could be impacted by pollution and other ecological changes, and should be monitored closely (Compagno, 2009).
I’m delighted to announce a partnership with the wonderfully talented Julius Csotonyi! Julius creates stunning shark coloring sheets that are fun and educational for all ages. From time to time you’ll see Julius’ work featured right here and on my other social media platforms! You can find more coloring sheets in the store! You are welcomed to download these beautiful sheets and enjoy them with family and friends.
Authority: Gmelin, 1789
Family: Scyliorhinidae, ~ 160 species
Length: Maximum of 3 feet (0.90 m)
Weight: 17 lbs (7.9 kg)
Habitat: Intertidal marine zones, prefers areas of rocky reefs, caves, crevices, and kelp beds
Depth: Shallow surface waters to 330 feet (100 m)
Gestation: 5 – 6 months before hatchlings leave the egg case
Litter Range: 2 egg cases laid at a time; exact number of eggs laid per year unknown
Home Range: Temperate waters around South Africa in the Northern, Western, and Eastern Provinces; old reports of sightings in Madagascar and Mauritius
Diet: Cephalopods, crustaceans, bony fishes, small batoids, bivalves, and polycharete worms
IUCN Status: Near Threatened
Thanks so much for checking out the Pyjama Shark! If you missed last week’s featured species, don’t miss the striking Sandbar Shark. If there is a species of shark you’d love to know more about, leave me a comment or send me a message! I would love to do a feature on your favorite species.
The new Ocean For Sharks Shop is open! There’s handmade ocean inspired plush animals, canvas paintings, and of course my children’s book, Winifred the Wondrous Whale Shark, available in print and PDF. Be sure to stop by. Remember proceeds benefit shark research and conservation with a donation to Project AWARE!
Conservation legislation needs public support in order to become law and help protect the environment and wildlife. Tell your representatives that you care about environmental and wildlife conservation. It only takes a moment to make a change that will last a lifetime. Until next time finatics!
Featured Image Source
Bentley, N. (Author). (2016). Pyjama shark [Digital Image]. Retrieved from https://ultimate-animals.com/pajama-shark/
Compagno, L. J. (1984). Sharks of the world: an annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date (No. QL 638.9. C65).
Compagno, L.J.V. (2009). Poroderma africanum. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved from https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/39348/10211867
Ebert, D. A. (1991). Diet of the seven gill shark Notorynchus cepedianus in the temperate coastal waters of southern Africa. South African Journal of Marine Science, 11(1), 565-572.
Fowler, S. L., & Cavanagh, R. D. (Eds.). (2005). Sharks, rays and chimaeras: the status of the Chondrichthyan fishes: status survey (Vol. 63). IUCN.
Human, B. A. (2006). A taxonomic revision of the catshark genus Poroderma Smith, 1837 (Chondrichthyes: Carcharhiniformes: Scyliorhinidae). Zootaxa, 1229(1), 1-32.
Martin, R. A. (n.d.). Kelp Forests: Pyjama Catshark. Retrieved from http://elasmo-research.org/education/ecology/kelp-pyjama_cat.htm
Tricas, T. C., Deacon, K., Last, P., McCosker, J. E., Walker, T. I., & Taylor, L. (1997). The Nature Company Guides: Sharks and Rays. (L. Taylor, Ed.). Hong Kong: The Nature Company, Time Life Books.