You can find this blow up shark in KwaZulu-Natal

The Balloon shark (Cephaloscyllium sufflans) is a species of catshark belonging to the family Scyliorhinidae, endemic to the southwestern Indian Ocean off South Africa and Mozambique. They are found over sandy and muddy flats at depths of 131-1,444 feet. The Balloon shark has a dorsal color pattern of faint darker saddles on a light grayish background. The Balloon shark can inflate itself with water or air as a defense against predators.


Family: Scyliorhinidae – Catsharks

Genus: Cephaloscyllium 

Species: sufflans


Phylum– Chordata

Class– Chondrichthyles


Common NameGround Sharks

Family– Scyliorhinidae

Common NameCatsharks




Average Size and Length: Hatchlings measure between 20-22 cm/7.8-8.7 inches. Mature sharks have been measured between 70-75 cm/2.3-2.5 feet. The maximum recorded is over 106 cm/3.5 feet long.

Current Rare Mythical Sightings: British ichthyologist Charles Tate Regan described the Balloon shark as Scyliorhinus sufflans in a 1921 issue of the scientific journal Annals and Magazine of Natural History. He placed the species within the subgenus Cephaloscyllium, which later authors have elevated to the rank of full genus. The type specimen measures 75 cm/ 2.5 feet long and was collected 15–22 miles away from the mouth of the Umvoti River in South Africa.

Teeth and Jaw: The large mouth forms a wide arch and lacks furrows at the corners. The upper teeth are exposed when the mouth is closed. There are around 60 upper and 44 lower tooth rows. Each tooth has a strong central cusp flanked on either side by 1–2 tiny cusplets.

Head: They have a broad, flattened head. The snout is short and rounded. They have narrow, lobe-like skin flaps in front of the nostrils. The horizontally oval eyes are equipped with rudimentary nictitating membranes and placed high on the head. Above and below each eye are ridges, and behind is a small spiracle.

Denticles: The skin is thick and roughened by well-calcified dermal denticles. Each denticle is triangular and pointed.

Tail: The tail is short with a deep caudal fin that bears a small lower lobe and a ventral notch near the tip of the upper lobe.

Demographic, Distribution, Habitat, Environment and Range: The Balloon shark can be found in the western Indian Ocean in South Africa in KwaZulu-Natal and Mozambique (19°S – 28°S). Other accounts from other locations are more than likely a separate species. They can be found in sand and mud, offshore on the continental shelf and uppermost slope between 131-1,444 feet. Adults may venture down to 600 m. They are tropical, benthic, demersal.

Diet: They feed on lobster, shrimp, cephalopods and also teleost and other elasmobranchs.

A juvenile 48 cm/1.6-foot-long has been found in the stomach of a coelacanth, Latimeria chalumnae.

Aesthetic Identification: The Balloon shark is a large shark with an inflatable stomach. Of the five pairs of gill slits, the third pair is the longest. There are seven light grey-brown saddles on a lighter grey background, which are obscure or absent in adults. The pectoral fins are dusky above, and unspotted below. There are no obvious light fin margins. The first dorsal fin originates over the pelvic fins. The second dorsal fin is much smaller and originates over the anal fin. The pectoral fins are large and broad. The pelvic fins are low. Adult males have rather short, thick claspers. The anal fin is smaller than the first dorsal fin but much larger than the second, and is relatively deep.

Biology and Reproduction: They are oviparous. Free egg cases have not yet been found, which could mean that spawning occurs in deeper and/or more northerly waters that are frequented by the adults.

Behavioral Traits, Sensing and Intelligence: Juveniles and adults are segregated. Immature sharks are common off of kwaZulu-Natal, but not adults. They may occur farther north in deeper water.

The Balloon shark can inflate itself with water or air as a defense against predators.

Balloon Shark Future and Conservation: They are of least concern. They are caught incidentally in bottom trawls but does not seem to be threatened by fishing pressure. On occasion, their skin has been utilized.

Balloon Shark Recorded Attacks on Humans: Not a threat to humans.