Pyjama Catshark: Poroderma africanum

Family: Scyliorhinidae
Common name(s)

Pyjama Catshark, Pyjama Shark, Striped Catshark.


A relatively large catshark. Snout bluntly rounded. Mouth width greater than snout length. First dorsal origin approximately level with pelvic fin insertion. Second dorsal fin level with middle of anal fin base. Anal fin larger than second dorsal.  All fins relatively long and low. Upper caudal subterminal notch well defined. Dorsal surface grey/olive with bold longitudinal black stripes.


Maximum length 109cm. Size at hatching 14-17cm.


A temperate water species found on rocky reefs, kelp forests, caves, and mixed sand and rock. Intertidal to at least 108m.


The  pyjama catshark has a small range on the southern coast of South Africa. Common on the east and west capes, occasionally eastwards to KwaZulu-Natal.

Conservation Status


The Pyjama Shark is 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 Pyjama Shark 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 sometimes 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 africanumThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T39348A124404008. Downloaded on 18 November 2020.


Oviparous. One egg per oviduct. Hatching times recorded at 5.5 months in captivity.


The pyjama shark consumes small bony fishes, hagfishes, and small sharks, as well as a wide assortment of molluscs and crustaceans.


Mostly nocturnal. Rests in 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

The pyjama catshark can be encountered at many rocky or kelpy dive sites in and around False Bay. For example, at Miller’s Point on the west end of Simonstown; a popular spot that can be dived by boat or from shore if the surf is not too high. Divers visiting this excellent site are likely to see numerous pyjama sharks, plus 3-4 other catshark species, as well as spotted gully sharks, and sometimes sevengill sharks.
False Bay is the first stop on Big Fish Expeditions’ South African Endemic Shark and Ray Expedition.

Similar species

Leopard Catshark Usually distinguishable by its bold pattern of leopard-like spots but some individuals have lines similar to the pyjama shark.

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