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Gregory R. Mann, Ph.D. {ret.}

Prickly Shark

“Echinorhinus cookie”

The Prickly Shark is a large deep-water shark apparently found only in warmer reaches of the Pacific Ocean. Prickly Sharks are so-called because they have the appearance of being covered in small thorns. Their skin is covered in sharp denticles; tooth-like protrusions from their skin. The largest Prickly Shark found was 13 feet long and most appear to average between 6 and 10 feet. Females are significantly larger than males. Their coloration is not spectacular, being a subdued dark brown. Prickly Sharks live off continental shelves, from a depth of at least 10 meters to 400 meters and possibly far deeper. As far as we know, they are only found in temperate and tropical regions of the Pacific although there is a deficiency of data and their range might be wider than this. They appear to be fairly slow swimmers most of the time. However their diet consists of bony fish, smaller sharks, mollusks and crustaceans, suggesting that they probably are capable of moving a lot more quickly when pursuing prey. Bony fish and other sharks are fast and their predators generally need to be fast as well.

Like many other sharks, Prickly Sharks give birth to live young rather than laying eggs. Their litter sizes are comparatively large, one is known to have consisted of 114 pups. Most live bearing sharks only have a few pups at a time and even egg laying ones usually lay very few each year. There is not much else known about the life cycle of Prickly Sharks or their behavior in general. Prickly Sharks are rarely targeted specifically by fisheries, but they are regularly caught as by-catch by deep sea trawlers & long-lines. They also face the same threats that all other marine animals do of climate change, ocean acidification, pollution and the upset of the food chain caused by over-fishing. Because so little is known about these sharks it is impossible to say at this point just how threatened they are. The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) which monitors the status of endangered animals, has classified them as ‘near threatened’ and acknowledges there is a scarcity of information. No protection programs have been implemented for Prickly Sharks, although marine conservation measures in general would be likely to help them. Marine reserves and increased regulation of the fishing industry affect all marine life, since ocean ecosystems are intricately interlinked.

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