This month we're showcasing the Smallspotted Catshark.

A small and slender shark with lots of small dark spots and blotches. And one of the most abundant shark species in British waters. Being a coastal species, they’re often encountered by divers and snorkellers.

When threatened the Smallspotted Catshark will curl up into a doughnut shape, leading to some people calling them ‘shysharks’. Not to be confused with the group of 4 specific catshark species (known as the Haploblepharus), which are also referred to as 'shy sharks' for the very same reason.

Smallspotted Catsharks are usually seen on their own, either resting on the seabed or cruising with purpose – probably on the hunt for a quick snack. But they can also be found in groups.

It’s been observed that some individuals are highly sociable and seem to 'enjoy' being in large groups. Whereas others prefer being alone or will socialise in small groups. So, it seems, just like humans catsharks can be introverts or extroverts too!

There's safety in numbers. And, for females not interested in finding a mate, groups can also provide a refuge from the aggressive attention of males. Here they can focus their energy on producing and laying their eggs.

Smallspotted Catsharks lay their eggs in pairs, each encased in a tough leathery eggcase made of keratin. These have long curly tendrils at each end, which are used by the female to attach them to seaweed. She may spend a long time laying her eggs, ensuring they’re securely fixed in a safe place.

The protective capsule contains a yolk sac that acts as a life-support machine, giving the developing embryo everything it needs. After 6-9 months the egg hatches and the pup emerges as a fully-formed miniature version of the adult (~10cm long).

Once hatched the empty eggcases often get washed up on the beach. If you find one, you can help us learn more about egg-laying sharks, and skates, by recording your eggcase to our Great Eggcase Hunt Project.
 

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Scyliorhinus canicula
 
FAMILY: Scyliorhinidae (Catsharks)

MAXIMUM SIZE: 85cm total length

DIET: Small bottom-dwelling invertebrates (such as crabs, snails, squid and worms) and small fish.

DISTRIBUTION: Northeast Atlantic; from Norway to the west coast of Africa, and the Mediterranean Sea.

HABITAT: Coastal species. Prefers shallow waters up to depths of 110m. They live close to the seabed on sandy, gravelly, or muddy substrates.



Want to get involved with our Great Eggcase Hunt?

Help us search the shores for washed up eggcases. We’ll also show you how to identify and record your finds.

Click here to find out more