Photographs copyright Andy
Murch. All rights reserved.
all images of Puffadder Shysharks
Shark Pictures Database
Puffadder Shyshark, Happy Eddie.
The puffadder shyshark has a broad head and a relatively slender body. Dorsal
coloration mid brown with tightly packed white spots plus 7 to 9 dark edged,
golden-brown saddles. Ventral surface pale/white. Eyes golden matching the
shark's paler skin tones. Very large nostrils with large nasal flaps.
A colour variation from Natal with darker broken saddles and less spots has now
been described as a separate species: Haploblepharus kistnasamyi
Maximum recorded size: Female 69cm. Male 60cm.
Inshore reefs and kelp forests. Also on sand adjacent to reefs and on soft
bottoms to 130m.
Endemic to South Africa. From Cape Agulhas to Natal. Common where it occurs.
Small bony fishes: anchovies, maasbankers, gobies and gapers. Also,
crabs, mysids, shrimps, hermits, squid and polychaete worms.
Swims over reef substrates and soft bottoms in search of
Lays paired egg capsules which it frequently attaches to urchins on
Note the egg case filaments dragging behind this shark's pectoral
Millers Point, Simon's
Town, South AFrica.
Conservation Status: The IUCN lists the puffadder shyshark as Near
Justification: "Haploblepharus edwardsii was previously considered to range
along most of the South African coastline, however, a recent taxonomic revision
of the genus has shown that this distribution included those of other
Haploblepharus species due to species misidentification. Its current verified
range is much smaller than previously thought, with its range lying wholly
within heavily fished and potentially degraded inshore waters. That other
Haploblepharus species are commonly misidentified for this species, may result
in a possible overestimation of abundance for this species. Additionally, there
may be population sub-structuring in this species as specimens in the west of
its range grow to a smaller maximum size and have different habitat preferences
to those in the east of its range. The main threat is recreational fishing where
this shark is taken as discarded bycatch, generally regarded as a nuisance by
the fishermen, and persecuted as such. The extent of occurrence of this species
is estimated to be close to 20,000 km². A continuing decline in the number of
individuals and/or quality of habitat is suspected as a result of heavy fishing
pressure and pollution and disturbance of inshore waters. Anecdotal observations
suggest that these catsharks are highly site specific, suggesting severely
fragmented populations. Thus, the species is assessed as Near Threatened,
narrowly missing the criteria for Vulnerable"
Citation: Human, B. 2009. Haploblepharus edwardsii. In: IUCN
2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.1. <www.iucnredlist.org>
puffadder shyshark has strikingly bright saddles and intricate markings that
differentiate it from most other catsharks. A darker form with broken saddles
and larger spots has now been described as a separate species:
Haploblepharus kistnasamyi. Another catshark that may display somewhat
similar markings is the dark shyshark Haploblepharus pictus. This
particular species is usually darker and displays far less intricate markings.
Its saddles do not have dark outlines and its spots are confined to its saddles.
Reaction to divers:
Virtually ignores divers unless closely pursued. Once the puffadder shyshark establishes
that it is being followed it will generally move away, seek cover or at least attempt to
keep its distance while on the move. A slow approach to a stationary animal
generally will not illicit a flight response.
Miller's Point in Simon's Town (just down from the Boulder's Beach Penguin
Colony) is a great place to look for puffadder shysharks. From shore, head out
to the reef and wait for a puffadder to swim by. These are common sharks in this
area so a little patience should reward the diver with some good sightings.
More costly but far more convenient than shore diving, take a charter with Shark Explorers out of
Simon's Town or join Big Fish Expeditions on their yearly
South African Shark Safari.
Big Fish Expeditions: