Chain Catshark

Discovery

Overview — The chain catshark looks like something a modern artist would have designed. Its smooth yellow and brown skin contains brownish-black markings along its body and dorsal fins. These marks resemble a chain, hence this shark’s name.

As if to match the body, nature provided this fish with yellow-green eyes. Because of their interesting appearance, these sharks are popular in aquarium exhibits, but the fish normally inhabit ocean depths around 246 to 1,804 feet, depending on which portion of their range they are in.

The range extends through the western central Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and all along the continental shelf of the northeastern United States. Near the U.S., the shark is most abundant in the deep waters off North Carolina and Virginia. The chain catshark seems to prefer rocky, rough sea bottoms, perhaps because the nooks and crannies provide places to hide from predators and to hunt for food.

Feeding Habits — Scientists in 1988 conducted a “gut content analysis” of chain catsharks. This involved cutting open shark stomachs to determine what they recently had eaten. The study, performed on 81 individuals, determined that 64 percent ate squid; 55 percent consumed bony fishes; 32 percent ate marine worms, such as the lugworm or clam worm; and 21 percent had eaten crustaceans, such as lobsters, shrimps and crabs.

Cool Fact — Chain catsharks often remain motionless on the sea floor, camouflaged by their skin’s unique color and pattern.

Common Max Depth — 1,804 feet

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