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Heterodontus portusjacksoni:   (click for more)

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  • Squalus jacksoni  Suckow, 1799: 102. No type material, Botany Bay, Port Jackson, Australia, based on the Port Jackson Shark of Phillip, 1789: 283, fig. Reference from Fowler (1941).
  • Squalus philippi  Bloch and Schneider, 18011801: 134. No type material, Botany Bay, Port Jackson, Australia, based on the Port Jackson Shark of Phillip, 1789: 283, fig.
  • Squalus philippinus  Shaw, 1804: 341. No type material?, southern Pacific Ocean, Botany Bay (Port Jackson, Australia), apparently based on the Port Jackson Shark of Phillip (1789: 283, fig.), and termed the "Phillipian shark" by Shaw.
  • Squalus jacksonii  Turton, 1806: 922. Variant spelling of Squalus jacksoni Suckow, 1799 or independently proposed?
  • Cestracion philippi  Lesson, 1830, 2: 97; 3, pl. 2. No type material, Botany Bay, Port Jackson, Australia, based on the Port Jackson Shark of Phillip, 1789: 283, fig. Proposed as a new name; specimen illustrated may not be this species.
  • Cestracion heterodontus  Sherrard, 1896: 42, 88, figs. Hobson's Bay, Victoria. Reference from Fowler (1941), uncertain if new name or error.
  • Heterodontus bonae-spei  Ogilby, 1908: 2. Holotype: Queensland Museum, No. QM I.1587, jaws only, 2Table Bay, South Africa2, possibly a specimen of H. portusjacksoni with a mistaken locality label according to Reif (1973: 165-167).
    Other Combinations:  None
    FAO Names
    En - Port Jackson shark, Fr - Requin dormeur taureau, Sp - Dormilón toro.
    3Alpha Code: HEK     Taxonomic Code: 1040100105
    Scientific Name with Original Description
    Squalus portus jacksoni  Meyer, 1793, Syst. Summar. Zool. Entdeck. Neuholland, Afrika: 71. No type material, Botany Bay, New South Wales, Australia, based on the Port Jackson Shark of Phillip, 1789, Voyage Botany Bay: 283, fig.
    Diagnostic Features
    fieldmarks: Dorsal fins with spines, anal fin present, colour pattern with a conspicuous set of harness-like narrow dark stripes on the back, unique to the species.

    Supraorbital ridges moderately low, gradually ending posteriorly; interorbital space moderately concave, depth between ridges less than half eye length.  Anterior holding teeth with a cusp and no cusplets in adults, posterior molariform teeth not carinate and greatly expanded and rounded.  Pre-first dorsal-fin length 21 to 24% and anal-caudal space 10 to 13% of total length. Lateral trunk denticles fairly large and rough.  Propterygium fused to mesopterygium.  First dorsal-fin spine directed obliquely posterodorsally in juveniles and adults; first dorsal-fin origin well anterior to pectoral-fin insertions, about over or slightly behind pectoral-fin midbases, and somewhat posterior to fifth gill openings; first dorsal-fin insertion well anterior to pelvic-fin origins and well behind pectoral-fin insertions; first dorsal-fin free rear tip about opposite to pelvic-fin origins; first dorsal fin moderately high and rounded angular or falcate, height 12 to 16% of total length, first dorsal fin larger than pelvic fins; second dorsal-fin origin over or slightly behind pelvic-fin rear tips, second dorsal fin rounded to angular or falcate and nearly as large as first dorsal fin. Anal fin subangular and rounded or weakly falcate, apex well anterior to lower caudal-fin origin when laid back; anal-caudal space about three times anal-fin base.  Total vertebral count 114, precaudal count 76 to 81, monospondylous precaudal count 37 to 39, diplospondylous precaudal count 37 to 43, pre-first dorsal-fin spine count 15 to 17, and count from diplospondylous transition to second dorsal-fin spine 9 to 14.  Egg cases with flat thin spiral flanges diagonal to case axis and a pair of very short, slender tendrils on case apex; flanges with four or five turns.  A large species, mature between 70 and 165 cm.  Background colour of dorsal surface grey to light brown or whitish with distinctive black striped harness marking; body and fins without light or dark spots; head with a narrow dark bar on interorbital surface and a single narrow dark to blackish band under eye; fins without abrupt dark tips and white dorsal-fin apices; hatchlings without whorls on fins and body, colour pattern as in adults. 
    Geographical Distribution

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    Western South Pacific: Temperate and subtropical southern Australia, from off New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South and Western Australia (west coast), with questionable records from southern Queensland and the tropical north coast of Western Australia; also New Zealand (a single record, possibly as a straggler or waif from Australia).
    Habitat and Biology
    A common littoral, nocturnal bottom shark of the temperate Australian continental shelves and uppermost slopes,ranging from close inshore in the intertidal to at least 275 m.

    Underwater observation and tagging of this nocturnal species has elucidated its life-history to a degree attained with few other species of sharks. While inshore, the Port Jackson shark favours caves with sandy floors and open trenches of shallow rocky reefs as daytime resting places, and almost all individuals in a given area will be found resting in relatively few of such sites. Strong selection is shown for favoured sites, and superficially identical sites nearby may have few or no sharks.

    Port Jackson sharks can be solitary but often occur in small to large groups. Althose these sharks are evidently social and apparently are amenable to study underwater, relatively little is known of their sociobiology and behaviour patterns. This could be elucidated in the future by electronic tagging and night-observation with low-light video devices, as well as observations of captive colonies in semi-naturalistic habitats.
    Pronounced fluctuations in abundance have been noted on shallow reefs off New South Wales, directly correlated with seasonal influxes of adults for breeding and inversely correlated by seasonal variations in temperature.These sharks are apparently social while resting, and favoured resting sites may have up to 16 sharks occupying them.Data from tagging suggests that seasonal reef populations are in a state of continuous flux, with individuals moving in and out of their favoured reefs throughout the breeding season. Apparently individuals are capable of homing to favoured resting sites after ranging considerable distances away from them during the breeding season. When sharks were experimentally removed from resting sites in Sydney Harbour to different localities up to 3 km away, they returned to their original resting sites. It has been suggested that these sharks have a highly-developed spatial memory, and apparently the means to locate favoured resting and breeding sites long distances apart along migration routes.

    Port Jackson sharks are seasonal oviparous breeders, with juveniles segregating by size after hatching and adults segregating by sex. Mature females accompanied by some males move onto inshore reefs in late July and August in the Sydney area (New South Wales), and probably mating occurs at this time. Most mature males remain in deeper water offshore. During August and September (rarely in July and October) females lay 10 to 16 (commonly 10 to 12) eggs in rock crevices on shallow, sheltered reefs at depths from 1 to 5 m but occasionally down to 20 to 30 m. In captivity females lay a pair of cased eggs a day every 8 to 17 days. The broad spiral flanges of the egg cases serve as anchors to keep them wedged in the rocks. Females apparently favour traditional 'nest' sites, which several apparently use collectively for many years. Apart from rock crevices, females may occasionally lay egg cases on open sand, and egg cases have been found wedged under an underwater oil pipeline and in tin cans. Egg cases are oriented with their pointed ends into crevices, and females have been seen carrying egg cases, suggesting that females lay their eggs, pick them up at the broad end, and insert them into appropriate crevices. According to Michael (1993), adults have been observed eating their own egg-cases (as in H. francisci).

    Young hatch after about 9 to 12 months and move into nursery areas in bays and estuaries. Some may retreat into deeper water during summer, but most juveniles remain in mixed groups with a 1:1 sex ratio on the nursery grounds for several years. At the beginning of sexual maturity adolescents move into deeper water and segregate into male and female groups. After several years of adolescence, apparently spent at the outer edges of the continental shelves, these groups join the adult populations.

    Adult males apparently move into deeper water near the end of the breeding season, followed by the adult females in late September or October. Some adults move offshore into deeper water, but others migrate. Small numbers of adults may return to the inshore breeding reefs as early as March or April of the next year, but most do not stay inshore and few sharks are present until the onset of the next breeding season. Observed ratios of adult males and females are not significantly at variance with a 1:1 ratio.

      On the east coast of Australia the Port Jackson shark shows a pattern of migration southwards after breeding, with females migrating at least for 5 to 6 months and moving up to 850 km south of breeding reefs before returning to the same sites the next year. Some may range as far south as Tasmania from the Sydney area in New South Wales in the annual migration cycle. It is thought that migrating adult sharks move southwards along inshore coastal waters but return to their breeding reefs along deeper offshore waters.

    Studies on blood proteins between Port Jackson sharks of different regions suggest that they form at least two populations, a southwestern one from Western Australia to northeastern Victoria and a northeastern one from New South Wales and possibly southern Queensland. There is blood protein evidence to suggest that sharks using favoured breeding sites in three localities in New SouthWales represent genetically distinct subpopulations, and indicates that the high site specificity shown by tagging and recapturing of sharks in this area is probably of relatively long duration.

    Data from captive sharks suggests that juveniles grow at about 5 to 6 cm per year and adults between 2 and 4 cm per year. Approximate estimates of age at maturity from captive growth data are 8 to 10 years for males and 11 to 14 years for females. So far, data is unavailable on growth rates in the wild from tagging and remeasuring of tagged individuals or from calibration and examination of fin spine or vertebral rings.

    The Port Jackson shark feeds primarily on benthic invertebrates, mainly echinoderms. Prey items include sea urchins, starfish, polychaetes, large gastropods, prawns, crabs, barnacles, and small fishes. Occasionally garbage such as bits of mammalian fur, potato and orange peels are taken in by these sharks. Juveniles with their smaller, more pointed teeth apparently take more soft-bodied prey than adults. Food items in stomachs are usually broken into small pieces, indicating that the sharks actively grind their food with their powerful jaws and heavy molariform teeth. Food is apparently taken at night on the bottom, and by searching close to the substrate. Olfactory cues are thought to be important, but electrosense and lateral line sense may play a role in this also. Food is eaten after final contact with the mouth region. Juveniles at least are capable of digging food out of the sand by sucking in water and sand and blowing it out of the gill covers. Respiration can occur by pumping water into the first, enlarged gill slits and out the last four, which is thought to allow the shark to crush and grind its prey at leisure without having to take in water through its mouth and risk passage of food out the gill slits.

    Predators of this shark are poorly known, but it is suspected that adults are highly protected by their sedentary habits, cryptic, nocturnal behaviour, fin spines, and disruptive colour patterns. Possible predators are large macropredatory sharks such as bluntnose sevengill and white sharks as well as large otariid seals. Juveniles in nursery grounds are thought to be more vulnerable to predation by other sharks and larger benthic teleosts. Adults are sometimes attacked by small predatory isopods, and eggs may be attacked by male Port Jackson sharks and possibly a gastropod drilling predator. As with other sharks, this has a sizeable parasite fauna, including cestodes (tapeworms), trematodes (flatworms), nematodes (roundworms), isopod larvae, copepods, fish lice, and leeches.
    Maximum total length reported as 165 cm, but apparently rare above 137 cm. Egg cases are 13 to 17 cm long and 5 to 7 cm wide at the broad end. Size at hatching 23 to 24 cm. Males are adolescent between 50 and 80 cm, mature between 70 and 80 cm, and reach at least 105 cm; females are adolescent between 65 and about 84 cm, mature between 80 and 95 cm, and reach at least 123 cm; adult females average about 25 cm longer than adult males.
    Interest to Fisheries
    Apparently of minimal interest to fisheries. Taken in commercial fisheries as bycatch in bottom trawls, shrimp nets, beach seines, anti-shark nets, bottom longlines and in shark gill nets on the south coast of Australia; also caught by sports anglers on rod-and-reel. Apparently not utilized as food.

    Conservation Status : Conservation status uncertain.
    Local Names
    Widespread : Bullhead ,  Pigfish ,  Oyster-crusher ,  Oyster crusher ,  Tabbigaw .
    Reif (1973) noted that the holotype of Heterodontus bonae-spei, supposedly from South Africa, is most probably a specimen of H. portusjacksoni with an erroneous locality label. Eschmeyer (1998) noted that the name was unavailable because Ogilby (1908) did not distinguish it by characters but only by locality.
    Threat to humans: This shark is considered harmless to people. It is kept in public aquaria for display in Europe, the United States, and probably Australia, and is an obvious candidate for display because of its hardiness and attractive colour pattern. Divers observe this shark but it is not a special focus of ecotouristic diving.
    Source of Information
    Sharks of the world An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Volume 2 Bullhead, mackerel and carpet sharks (Heterodontiformes, Lamniformes and Orectolobiformes). Leonard J.V. Compagno 2001.  FAO Species Catalogue for Fishery Purposes. No. 1, Vol. 2. Rome, FAO. 2001. p.269.
    Compagno & Niem, 1998
    Fowler, 1941
    Last & Stevens, 1994
    McLaughlin & O'Gower, 1970, 1971
    Michael, 1993
    O'Gower, 1995
    O'Gower & Nash, 1978
    Ogilby, 1908
    Reif, 1973
    Smith, 1942
    Taylor, 1972
    Whitley , 1940
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