If you know Melissa, you know she has an extreme love for horn sharks. Like, it might be a borderline obsession (not as much as her tiger shark one, but still…). The California Horn shark (Heterodontus francisci) is no exception to this rule.
The funny thing about sharks is that they come in an array of shapes and sizes. H. francisci does not have the shape of something that usually strikes a note of fear in the hearts of many. Instead, it’s kind of… okay, REALLY cute.
It has a funny shaped head, with pronounced ridges over its eyes, and an almost a pig-like snout. These fellas tend to be brown on top, with dark brown/black spots all over. They tend to be nocturnal, feeding on invertebrates like sea urchins, crabs, shrimp, squid, sea stars, small fish and more. Their mouths are like sharp, pointy suction cups that pull their prey from anything they’re holding onto (like large rocks). Adult California horn shark hunt in a small area, usually staying in the same site for many years.
California horn sharks are usually loners, and during the day their coloration acts like camouflage, hiding the sharks among the rocks, kelp or caves. These sharks typically mate in December/January (so, NOW—woo hoo!), and then the females lay eggs a few weeks later. After they hatch, the pups stay in shallow area until they reach a length of 0.35-0.49 m (1.14-1.6 ft), which is when they move to deeper water. When they grow a little more (0.49-1.5 m; 1.6-4.9 ft), they migrate back to shallower waters for most of their (average) 25 years.
They are usually seen in the western coast of the USA, off of Mexico (Melissa saw them in the Gulf of California) and in Ecuador and Peru.
They have no commercial value, but tend to be taken as bycatch by some fisheries (e.g. in bottom trawls). It’s unclear what effect this has on the population, and so they are classified as Data Deficient (DD) by the IUCN.
Ever seen one of these cuties?
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TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
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