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Dogsharks. Dogfish Sharks. Squalidae species.

dogfish dogshark dogsharks squalidae squaliformes

All images and text on this page are copyright protected: © 2010 Kelvin Aitken.
All rights reserved. Students may use this information for personal research only. Not for commercial use.

Order: Squaliformes
Families: Centrophoridae, Dalatiidae, Echinorhinidae, Etmopteridae, Oxynotidae, Somniosidae, Squalidae.

Dogfish are the largest shark family in Australia with 40 species. They range from the smallest of all sharks, the Smalleye Pygmy Shark (Squaliolus aliae), at 22 cm long, to the huge 6 m long Pacific Sleeper Shark (Somniosus pacificus). All dogfish have large spiracles, two dorsal fins, often with a sharp defensive spine, and lack an anal fin.

Most species are deep-water dwellers, inhabiting the 100–2000 m depth range, but some, like the White-Spotted Spurdog that lives on the southern coast, can be found in shallow bays. It would be unusual for any diver or snorkeler to see a dogfish but anglers find them regularly and some species are an important component of the commercial catch.

The 50 cm long Cookie Cutter Shark (Isistius brasiliensis) is a notorious hit-and-run merchant. During the night it migrates from the depths to the surface and latches itself onto any large animal, such as a tuna, dolphin or whale. It then removes a plug of flesh from its victim before racing away. The lips act as a suction cup to hold it onto the side of its host, while the pointed upper teeth grasp the flesh. The lower teeth are blade-like and slice out a circular chunk of meat as the shark spins on its axis.

Lantern sharks are a group of dogfish that glow in the dark. Their bellies, flanks and tails have luminescent organs that may attract prey or help hide them from the predators beneath as the glow blends in with the faint star- or moonlight at the surface.

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