Marine Life in Focus

Marine Life in Focus...giving you a snapshot of species found in Western Australia.

Port Jackson shark (Heterodontus portusjacksoni)

Port Jackson shark

With 'heteros' meaning different, and 'dont' meaning tooth in Greek, you are about to find out why Heterodontid sharks, such as the Port Jackson shark, are so different to the sharks seen in movies like Jaws!

The Port Jackson shark is the largest of the Heterodontid sharks and can grow to 1.65 metres. Their teeth are different to other types of sharks because they have pointed front teeth and blunt rear teeth - perfect for holding, breaking, crushing and grinding prey such as sea urchins, molluscs, crustaceans and fish.

Named after Port Jackson in Sydney Harbour, the Port Jackson shark is found in southern Australian waters. Foraging (looking for tasty tit-bits) at night, these nocturnal sharks spend daylight hours in caves and other rocky environments, on or near the bottom of the ocean floor. With the ability to pump water across their gills, the Port Jackson shark doesn't have to move to breathe like some other types of sharks.

Although considered harmless, Port Jackson sharks have a venomous spine in front of each dorsal fin. That's why should you ever catch this shark while fishing, you should handle it with care to avoid being stung.

Sharks can give birth a few different ways; the Port Jackson shark is oviparous, meaning egg-laying. Between the ages of 11-14 years, a female Port Jackson shark reaches maturity and is able to lay 10 to 16 eggs in late winter and spring. Up to 12 months later, a baby shark 'hatches', called a 'pup', which is about 24 centimetres long.

When the egg is laid it's quite soft, however the eggs are then wedged into a rock crevice where they eventually harden. The tough, dark brown spiral egg case can often be found washed up on beaches and are sometimes referred to as a 'mermaid's purse'.

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Did you know - Eel