Leopard Catshark: Poroderma pantherinum

Family: Scyliorhinidae
Common name(s)

Leopard Catshark.


A medium-sized catshark. Snout bluntly rounded. Mouth width greater than snout length. Long, narrow nasal flaps extend to mouth. First dorsal origin posterior to pelvic fin insertion. Second dorsal fin anterior to anal fin insertion. Anal fin much larger than second dorsal.  All fins relatively long and low. Upper caudal subterminal notch well defined. Dorsal surface grey/olive with bold leopard like black spots with light centres. Spots usually form irregular longitudinal rows. Spots sometimes mrge into broken black stripes. Rarely, spots absent.


Maximum length 77cm. Hatching size 11cm.


A temperate water species found on rocky reefs, kelp forests, caves, and mixed sand and rock. Intertidal to at least 274m. Usually shallower than 20m.


The  leopard catshark has a small range on the southern coast of South Africa. Found from Saldanha Bay on the Western Cape, eastwards to KwaZulu-Natal.

Conservation Status


The Leopard Catshark is a bycatch of a range of fisheries, including longline, gillnet, beach seine, trawl, and commercial and recreational line (da Silva et al. 2015). Trawl fishing effort in South Africa has decreased substantially over the past two decades (S. Fennessy, pers. comm., 20 April 2018). Shore line fishing effort has decreased over the last 16 years as a result of a 2002 South African ban on all-terrain vehicles on beaches. Although the Leopard Catshark is discarded, many fishers regard the species as a nuisance and persecute them as such, likely causing high post-release mortality (K. Gledhill, unpubl. data, 2018). When discarded without undue harm, post-release mortality is likely low, based on generally very low at-vessel and post-release mortality for catsharks (Ellis et al. 2017). This species is used in the aquarium trade, and in 2005, there was a minor target fishery for Poroderma species for the aquarium trade (Human 2006).

Citations and References
Pollom, R., Gledhill, K., Da Silva, C., McCord, M.E. & Winker, H. 2020. Poroderma pantherinumThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T161515A124498131. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-2.RLTS.T161515A124498131.en. Downloaded on 19 November 2020.


Oviparous. One egg per oviduct. Possibly reproductively active all year.


The leopard catshark consumes small bony fishes and invertebrates.


Mostly nocturnal. Rests in crevices and caves during the day.

Reaction to divers

Fairly easy to approach when resting on the reef. Extremely bold but not aggressive in baited situations.

Diving logistics

Although not as common as the closely related pyjama catshark, the leopard catshark can be encountered at many rocky or kelpy dive sites in and around False Bay. At Miller’s Point on the west end of Simonstown, divers are likely to see one or two Poroderma patherinum among the other catshark species, that are abundant there.
False Bay is the first stop on Big Fish Expeditions’ South African Endemic Shark and Ray Expedition.

Similar species

Pyjama Catshark Distinguishable by unbroken bold black stripes.

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