Puffadder Shyshark: Haploblepharus edwardsii

Family: Scyliorhinidae
Common name(s)

Puffadder Shyshark, Happy Eddie.

Identification

Small size. Head broad and bluntly rounded. Greatly expanded nasal flaps. First dorsal origin approximately level with pelvic fin insertion. First and second dorsal fins of equal size. Lower lobe of dorsal fin straight edged.
Large golden or reddish-brown saddles on back and tail. Saddles usually contain small irregular dark spots. Brown background between saddles densely covered in small white/pale spots. Overall coloration may appear light or dark.

Size

Maximum length 60cm. Born at approx. 10cm.

Habitat

Rocky reefs, kelp forests, and sand flats. Found from 1-288m. Deeper in the east (30-90m). More inshore in the west (5-30m)

Distribution

The puffadder shyshark is endemic to South Africa in the Southeast Atlantic and Western Indian Oceans, occurring from Langebaan Lagoon, Western Cape, to Algoa Bay, Eastern Cape.

Conservation Status

ENDANGERED

The Happy Eddie is bycatch in a range of fisheries including beach seine, gillnet, trawl, recreational and commercial line, rock lobster, and demersal shark longline. Trend analyses of research trawl data in South African commercially fished areas and of angler surveys in the De Hoop Marine Protected Area, estimated population reductions of 88–97% over three generation lengths (60 years), with the highest probability of >80% reduction over three generation lengths. The reduction in research trawls is partly driven by a steep decline in catches during the early 1990s when fishing pressure in South Africa was substantially higher. Climate change likely contributed to a range shift away from the research trawl grounds that may account for some of the estimated population reduction but that also likely represents a loss of habitat for the Happy Eddie. Balancing these factors, it is suspected that the Happy Eddie has undergone a population reduction of 50–79% over the past three generation lengths (60 years), and it is assessed as Endangered.

Citations and References
Pollom, R., Da Silva, C., Gledhill, K., Leslie, R., McCord, M.E. & Winker, H. 2020. Haploblepharus edwardsiiThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T39345A124403633. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-2.RLTS.T39345A124403633.en. Downloaded on 15 November 2020.

Reproduction

Oviparous. Lays paired egg cases. Egg case size 3.5-5cm x 1.5-3cm.

Diet

Small bony fishes, fish offal, crustaceans, cephalopods, and polychaete worms.

Behavior

Rests in crevices during the day. Known to be social; puffadder shysharks in aquaria often rest together in small groups. Curls into a ball with tail over eyes when threatened; hence common name ‘shy shark’.

Reaction to divers

Extremely easy to approach. Will allow divers to follow it through the kelp forest as it searches for food. Easily attracted by small amounts of bait.

Diving logistics

The puffadder shyshark is mostly encountered at the western end of its range where it is found much shallower and closer to shore.

Virtually all rocky or kelpy dive sites in and around False Bay appear to have an abundance of shysharks including puffadders.
In particular, Miller’s Point on the west end of Simonstown is a popular dive site that can be dived by boat or from shore if the surf is not too high. It would be unusual not to see a puffadder shyshark or two, plus numerous other catshark species, spotted gully sharks, and sometimes sevengill sharks at this beautiful spot.
False Bay is the first stop on Big Fish Expeditions’ South African Endemic Shark and Ray Expedition.

Similar species

Dark Shyshark Distinguished by darker overall coloration, irregular saddles without obvious dark edges, and less spots.

Tiger Catshark Distinguished by less intricate markings lacking small spots. Plus, more slender body, and upturned snout.

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