The Fins United Initiative is excited to bring back the loved "Underrated Elasmobranch Spotlight" series through TFUI officer Jess Myers. Learn about the Chondrichthyans not shown on the big screen through her beautiful artwork... and check out the new name.
South African sharks are being featured in many Shark Week specials this year, so I thought I would highlight some lesser-known South African species. Today’s underrated elasmobranch is endemic to the country, meaning its habitat exists only within the borders and waters of South Africa.
When we talk about sharks, we typically think of the larger predators, but most sharks are under 3 feet (1 meter) in length. Pyjama sharks, at about 72 cm (~2.4 feet) long, are one of the biggest members of the catshark family (Scyliorhinidae). Catsharks are one of the biggest shark families and they are known for their catlike eyes.
Pyjama sharks can be easily identified by their 7 dark stripes running from head to tail. They live in rocky intertidal and reef habitats no deeper than 100 meters (~330 feet). During the day, they can be found resting in between crevices. When the sun sets, they become more active, sometimes forming groups with other pyjama sharks. Their diet consists of crustaceans (crabs, shrimps, and lobsters), cephalopods (squids and octopuses), and bony fish. Since their prey can hide inside the reef, pyjama sharks need a way to get their food out of the cracks. Having their first dorsal fin farther back helps increase their ability to twist and maneuver around the reef. The main predator the pyjama shark has to worry about is from the 2018 line-up, the broadnose sevengill shark (Notorhynchus cepedianus).
Animals that are endemic to an area are at the mercy of that country’s laws and regulations. A famous example of this is the vaquita (Phocoena sinus), a small porpoise found only in Mexico. Pyjama sharks are not commercially fished, but they are caught as bycatch. Some fishermen consider them as pests, killing them when caught. Despite these pressures, pyjama sharks were listed as Least Concern in the most recent survey (2019).
TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
SEE MELISSA'S TEDx TALK HERE:
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