Few specimens of this shark have been found and the reproduction debate continues

The Harlequin catshark (Ctenacis fehlmanni) is a species of Finback catshark belonging to the family Proscylliidae, and the only member of the genus Ctenacis. The 46 cm/1.5 feet female holotype was found in the western Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia, at depths between 230-558 feet. Only a very few specimens have been found.

Family: Proscylliidae – Finback Catsharks

Genus: Ctenacis 

Species: fehlmanni


Phylum– Chordata

Class– Chondrichthyles


Common NameGround Sharks

Family– Proscylliidae

Common NameFinback Catsharks




Average Size and Length: The adult female holotype that was measured is believed to reach a maximum of 46 cm/1.5 feet.

Teeth and Jaw: The mouth is large and triangular. The labial furrows are very short. The teeth are small, and burr-like with three cusps, having a central cusp longer than the two surrounding cusplets.

Head: There are nictitating membranes for eyelids over the cat-like eyes. There are short anterior nasal flaps that do not reach the mouth.

Tail: The tail is somewhat stout.

Demographic, Distribution, Habitat, Environment and Range: The Harlequin catshark is found in the northwestern Indian Ocean off of Somalia on the outer continental shelf (11°N – 9°N). The holotype was found between 230-558 feet. They are considered tropical demersal.

Diet: The large mouth, small teeth, and large pharynx with gill raters suggests a diet of very small invertebrates.

Aesthetic Identification: The Harlequin catshark has a stout body. The color pattern is unique, with large, reddish-brown, irregular dorsal saddle blotches that are interspersed with smaller round spots and vertical bars. There are also spots on the fins.

Biology and Reproduction: They are more than likely ovoviviparous. A very thin-walled egg case in each uterus of the female holotype would probably have been retained until the pair of young were to hatch. However, there is much debate and not enough data to make a solid conclusion between ovoviviparous and oviparous reproduction in the Harlequin catshark. The size of maturity is still unknown. Juveniles have not been measured.

Behavioral Traits, Sensing and Intelligence: Unknown.

Speed: They are more than likely slow-moving.

Harlequin Catshark Future and Conservation: They are currently of least concern. They are only known from a few specimens, so this evaluation may change as time goes on.

Harlequin Catshark Recorded Attacks on Humans: Not a threat to humans.