You will recognize the pattern on this shark

The Quagga catshark (Halaelurus quagga) is a species of catshark belonging to the family Scyliorhinidae. It is a small and slim-bodied shark that has a distinctive color pattern of narrow, dark brown vertical bars, which resemble those of the quagga. Its head is short and flattened, with a pointed snout tip that is not upturned. Little is known of the Quagga catshark’s natural history, as it is known only from nine specimens caught off southwestern India and eastern Somalia.


Family: Scyliorhinidae – Catsharks

Genus: Halaelurus 

Species: quagga


Phylum– Chordata

Class– Chondrichthyles


Common NameGround Sharks

Family– Scyliorhinidae

Common NameCatsharks




Average Size and Length: The egg cases measure 3.8–4.0 cm/1.5–1.6 inches. Hatchlings have been recorded at 8 cm/3.1 inches. Adult males have been recorded between 28-35 cm/11 inches-1.1 feet. The maximum recorded was 35 cm/1.1 feet, with possibilities of up to 37 cm/1.2 feet.

Current Rare Mythical Sightings: The first specimen of the Quagga catshark was a 27 cm/10.6 inches long adult male collected by the paddle steamer RIMS Investigator from a depth of 187 m/614 feet off the Malabar Coast of India. It was described by British naturalist Alfred William Alcock in A Descriptive Catalogue of the Indian Deep-sea Fishes in the Indian Museum, published in 1899. He assigned the new species to the genus Scyllium, a synonym of Scyliorhinus, and named it after the quagga (Equus quagga quagga) because of their similar color patterns. Later authors moved this species to the genus Halaelurus.

Only nine Quagga catshark specimens have been recorded. In addition to Alcock’s type specimen, four males were trawled from off the eastern Somali coast by the research ship RV Anton Bruun in 1964. Four more individuals, two male and two females, were found amongst the contents of commercial fishing trawls conducted off Quilon, India in 2010.

Teeth and Jaw: The mouth is large and curved, with the upper teeth exposed when closed. There are short furrows at the corners of the mouth. The jaws contain 26–28 upper and 27 lower tooth rows on each side. There are three tooth rows at the upper symphysis and one row at the lower. The teeth have three cusps.

Head: The head is short and flattened. The snout is pointed but not upturned. The anterior rims of the nostrils have triangular flaps of skin. The small, horizontally oval eyes are placed high on the head and have nictitating membranes. The eyes are raised above the head, with tiny spiracles behind them. The eyes in adults are 12–13 times in distance from snout to first dorsal origin. The gills are on the upper surface of the head above the mouth, but below and behind the eyes. The fifth pair is the smallest.

Denticles: The thick skin is covered by dermal denticles, which have arrowhead-shaped crowns with a central ridge and three posterior teeth.

Tail: The caudal fin has a small but discernible lower lobe and a large upper lobe with a notch in its trailing margin.

Demographic, Distribution, Habitat, Environment and Range: The Quagga catshark can be found in the Indian Ocean in the Laccadive Sea, in Somalia, and India (15°N – 8°N, 74°E – 76°E). They can be found offshore on the continental shelf on or near the bottom between 177-610 feet, but possibly 722 feet or more. The Indian sharks were caught between the depths of 295-722 feet or possibly 919 feet while the Somalian sharks were caught at depths of 194-230 feet. They are considered demersal.

Diet: Shrimp that live deep.

Aesthetic Identification: The Quagga catshark is light brown above with more than 20 dark brown narrow vertical bars, the pairs of bars forming saddles are only under the dorsal fins. The ventral side is lighter. There are no spots. It is a small, firm, and slim-bodied shark. The moderately large and rounded pectoral fins are positioned fairly close to the pelvic fins. The first dorsal fin is placed just behind the pelvic fin bases, while the larger second dorsal fin is placed just behind the anal fin. The anal fin is larger than the second dorsal fin and comparable in size to the pelvic fins. Adult males have thin, tapering claspers with a denticle-covered knob on the outer side near the tip.

Biology and Reproduction: They are oviparous. There is a possible record of a female containing eight eggs divided evenly between two oviducts, that were enclosed in brown egg cases with long tendrils at the corners.

Behavioral Traits, Sensing and Intelligence: Unknown.

Quagga Catshark Future and Conservation: There is not enough data to evaluate. They are not of importance to fisheries, but have been caught incidentally by bottom trawlers and other types of fishing. Its range is heavily fished.

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