The shark with a head like a sponge

The Spongehead catshark (Apristurus spongiceps) is a rare species of shark belonging to the family Scyliorhinidae. This species was only known from two specimens taken in the Pacific Ocean: an adult from near Bird Island, Hawaii, and a juvenile from the Banda Sea off Sulawesi, and also one photographed in its natural habitat in 2002. It was seen from the submersible Pisces IV at a depth of about a kilometer, on the Northampton Seamount off the northwestern Hawaiian Islands. They are found on or near the bottoms of insular continental slopes, at depths between 1,877-4,862 feet.


Family: Scyliorhinidae – Catsharks

Genus: Apristurus 

Species: spongiceps


Phylum– Chordata

Class– Chondrichthyles


Common NameGround Sharks

Family– Scyliorhinidae

Common NameCatsharks




Average Size and Length: Their length is mostly unknown. A gravid or pregnant female was measured at 50 cm/1.6 feet. The juvenile was measured at 10.5 cm/4.1 inches.

Current Rare Mythical Sightings: The Spongehead catshark is known from one adult and one juvenile collected and one photographed underwater. The juvenile was slenderer, but appeared to have the same characteristics and appearance as the adult.

Teeth and Jaw: The mouth is long, large, and broadly arched, bearing prominently expanded dental bands. The labial furrows are long. The uppers reach the upper symphysis and the lowers are about the same length.

Head: The head is broad and flattened. The snout and nostrils are broad. The nostrils have slit-like incurrent and excurrent openings. The mouth extends in front of the eyes. The eyes are small and are cat-like in appearance.

Denticles: The dermal denticles could be close set like some other sharks belonging to its family giving it a fuzzy texture.

Tail: The tail fin is elongated and somewhat broad.

Demographic, Distribution, Habitat, Environment and Range: The Spongehead catshark can be found in the Pacific Ocean around the Hawaiian Islands and in the Banda Sea off of southern Sulawesi. They can be found on island slopes on or near the bottom between 1,877-4,862 feet. They are considered bathydemersal.

Aesthetic Identification: The Spongehead catshark is a stout shark and dark brown in color. The area around the gills and the throat are covered with pleats and grooves. The gill slits are small. They are less than the adult eye length. The fins are high and rounded. Both dorsal fins are small and about equal in size, and spineless. The anal fin is large and separated from the tail by a small notch.

Biology and Reproduction: They are more than likely oviparous. They have 7-12 valves in the spiral intestine. They have a continuous supraorbital sensory canal.

Behavioral Traits, Sensing and Intelligence: Unknown.

Spongehead Catshark Future and Conservation: They are not evaluated.

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