Photos by Andrew Travis



Photos by Guido Zsilavecz
Dark shyshark Haploblepharus pictus
The dark shyshark is one of the four different cat or shy-sharks found in Cape Town waters, the others being the puffadder shyshark, the pyjama shark and the leopard catshark (there is a fifth one, the tiger catshark, Halaelurus natalensis, which I've seen once, but it is possibly not resident.) The dark shyshark has a dark brown body, with a few darker saddles dorsally, and numerous pale spots or blotches. Occasionally the main body colour is very dark, and the shark appears to be overall a dark grey/brown, without visible pattern.
The dark shyshark is less common in Cape Town than the puffadder shyshark, but it becomes common further up the West Coast, where the puffadder shyshark is uncommon.
The name "shyshark" comes from the habit of the sharks to curl up, covering their eyes with their tail, when threatened - the rationally probably being that to ingest a slender shark is easier than a bulky "donut"! The name "catshark" originats from the very cat-like eyes of these sharks.
Reaching 60 cm, the dark shyshark, like its relatives, is completely harmless to humans.

For more details on the dark shyshark and its relatives, see "Coastal Fishes of the Cape Peninsula and False Bay", available from better diveshops in Cape Town or directly from SURG.
References:
Coastal fishes of the Cape Peninsula and False Bay, a divers' identification guide, G Zsilavecz, 2005.
Two Oceans, A guide to the marine life of Southern Africa, GM Branch, CL Griffiths, ML Branch and LE Beckley, 1994.
Smiths' Sea Fishes, MM Smith and PC Heemstra, 1986.
Guide to the Sharks and Rays of Southern Africa, LJV Compagno, DA Ebert, MJ Smale, 1989.
Previous Q and A Index Next