If you know Melissa, you know she likes to read. A lot. And reading about sharks is one of her favorite things to do! So when her mother sent her a copy of Jose Castro’s “The Sharks of North America” a few days before she was set to meet him, she squealed so loudly that she woke up her college freshman roommate. #sorrynotsorry
If you’ve ever perused through the rather large book, you probably learned a few species here and there. The Fins United Initiative is all about bringing you the largely unknown species… including the Cryptic Horn Shark. (If you have the book, it’s page 182)
Never heard of it? Don’t worry—we hadn’t either! In fact, it doesn’t even have a proper scientific name. Castro labeled it as “Heterodontus sp. X” and followed with, “This horn shark, which I call the cryptic horn shark…”
Very little is known about it, gathered from the few specimens Castro gathered off El Barril, Baja California. What makes this horn shark different from the other two species present in the same area (H. francisci and H. mexicanus), is that it lacks the markings either of them have. Interesting…
The dermal denticles were similar to the horn shark (H. francisci) and it certainly looks similar to the horn shark, but genetic analysis (shout out to Gavin Naylor) points to this being a separate species.
We can guess a few things about this (supposed) species by looking at its relatives. First, all horn sharks belong to the bullhead shark family: Heterodontidae. The “common name” of bullhead comes from its short head that sports high ridges above their (rather beautiful) eyes. Most adults tend to be around 1 meter long (around 3 feet). Horn sharks lay cone-shaped eggs in shallow waters, wedging them in nooks and crannies for protection against predators.
Horn sharks are also loners and nocturnal, usually feasting on crustaceans, molluscs, star fish and sea urchins… these guys might have the same tastes! Maybe we’ll get a few more specimens or diver accounts of the Cryptic horn shark so we can learn more. Here’s hoping!
To Melissa’s knowledge, the IUCN has not determined a conservation status of this species.
did you find this horn shark as cryptic as we did?
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TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
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