September Elasmobranch of the Month: Pyjama Shark
Have you ever heard of a slow-swimming, nocturnal shark? Pyjama sharks, or striped catsharks, are one of the most unique species of sharks in the world.
Key Features & Appearance
If you ever come across a shark that looks like it’s ready for bed, you’ve probably spotted a pyjama shark! Named for its dark stripes, the pyjama shark has one of the most distinctive patterns of any shark species. This shark has a short snout and can grow up to 3.6 feet long, making them smaller than the average shark. Their two dorsal fins are placed close to their tail, though the second fin is much smaller than the first. With such a unique appearance, you’ll certainly know a pyjama shark when you see one.
Habitat & Distribution
You can find pyjama sharks in the southeast Atlantic Ocean (especially off the coast of South Africa) and the western Indian Ocean. These sharks live in temperate waters and like to stay near rocky reefs, kelp beds, and caves.
Pyjama sharks have an appetite for crustaceans, bony fish, octopus, squid, other sharks’ egg cases, and smaller sharks.
Pyjama sharks are oviparous, meaning that they lay eggs instead of giving birth. Female pyjama sharks can lay two eggs at a time, which take about five months to hatch.
The pyjama shark’s small size makes them the ideal meal for predators, particularly for broadnose sevengill sharks and Cape fur seals. Luckily, pyjama sharks are largely nocturnal! They spend their days resting and their nights hunting for food.
Humans also pose a threat to pyjama sharks. Like many marine animals, overfishing is the biggest threat to them. Though they themselves are not the targets of commercial fishing, they are often the victims of bycatch.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), pyjama sharks are considered “Least Concern.” In fact, the number of pyjama sharks is increasing!
Did you know that pyjama sharks are slow swimmers? They can spend the entire day without moving, only emerging at night to search for food.
“The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.” IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, www.iucnredlist.org/.
Max. “All about Sharks: Pajama Sharks.” Oceans Research, 15 Nov. 2022, www.oceans-research.com/all-about-sharks-pajama-sharks/.
“Poroderma Africanum.” Discover Fishes, www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/discover-fish/species-profiles/poroderma-africanum/.
“Pyjama Shark - Poroderma Africanum.” Shark Research Institute, www.sharks.org/pyjama-shark-poroderma-africanum.
“Pyjama Shark.” Save Our Seas Foundation, saveourseas.com/worldofsharks/species/pyjama-shark.