Chain Catshark

Scyliorhinus retifer

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This small shark can be found in the deep-sea regions off the eastern coast of the United States. Adults rarely grow any larger than 1.7 feet (0.52 m) with females being slightly larger than males. They have five gill slits, broad pectoral fins and large, oval-shaped eyes. Their heads are small with blunted snouts. Chain Catsharks usually rest on the ocean bottom during the daylight hours and hunt squid, fish and various crustaceans at night.

The unusual name refers to the bold reticulated pattern on its skin which resembles interlocked loops of chain. The pattern helps the shark blend into the muddy, rock-strewn ocean bottom. Besides this striking camouflage, the shark’s skin fluoresces (glows). It is unknown why the shark has this ability.

Because of the depths at which they live, Chain Catsharks rarely come into contact with humans.

Range and Habitat

The shark lives in the deep-sea areas on the continental shelf on the east coast of the United States. They can be found at depths from 190 to 1,200 feet (58 to 365 m). Currently scientists believe this shark stays in warmer areas of the ocean and probably does not migrate long distances, if it migrates at all.

Conservation Status