Pyjama shark (Poroderma africanum)

Dorsal view of pyjama shark
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Pyjama shark fact file

Pyjama shark description

GenusPoroderma (1)

The aptly named pyjama shark (Poroderma africanum) has a greyish body with seven dark longitudinal stripes running the length of its elongate body. These stripes become broken towards the tail and the lateral sides, and in some adult specimens are light in the centre. In contrast with the distinctively striped upperparts, the underside of the pyjama shark is uniformly pale. The head is broad and flat, and the snout is blunt, with two short nasal barbels protruding above the mouth, which help to detect prey, (2) (3) (4) (5). While the pectoral fins are broad and rounded, the two dorsal fins are small, soft and set well back near the tail, a reflection of its sluggish lifestyle (3) (4).

Also known as
striped catshark.
Max length: 1 m (2)

Pyjama shark biology

As a primarily nocturnal species, this sluggish shark spends most of the day lying on the bottom or concealed away in a cave or crevice (3) (4). Becoming active at night, it forages for a variety of prey including fish, crustaceans, molluscs and worms (2) (3) (4).

The pyjama shark reproduces oviparously, with the female producing two brownish purse-shaped egg-cases each year (3). The sticky, hairy surface of the egg-case helps it adhere to kelp and other marine vegetation, where it remains attached until the pup hatches five to six months later (3) (4).


Pyjama shark range

The pyjama shark is endemic to waters off the coast of South Africa, from Saldanha Bay on the west coast round to East London on the south coast (2) (4).


Pyjama shark habitat

The pyjama shark is typically found on rocky reefs from the shore to depths of around 100 metres (2) (4).


Pyjama shark status

The pyjama shark is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened


Pyjama shark threats

Given that the pyjama shark has a limited distribution and is restricted to shallow waters in a well populated and heavily fished area, the conservation status of this species is an increasing concern. While it is not generally targeted in any fishery, it is often taken as bycatch by commercial trawlers, as well being frequently caught by recreational fisherman. Furthermore, over recent years an export market has grown for small sharks, which may put further pressure on the population of this endemic shark (1) (4).


Pyjama shark conservation

The pyjama shark currently receives no specific protection (1).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

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Fleshy projections near the mouth of some fish.
In the fishing industry, the part of the catch made up of non-target species.
Diverse group of arthropods (a phylum of animals with jointed limbs and a hard chitinous exoskeleton) characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (parts of the mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps, slaters, woodlice and barnacles.
Dorsal fins
In fish, the unpaired fin(s) found on the back of the body.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
A diverse group of invertebrates, mainly marine, that have one or all of the following; a horny, toothed ribbon in the mouth (the radula), a shell covering the upper surface of the body, and a mantle or mantle cavity with a type of gill. Includes snails, slugs, shellfish, octopuses and squid.
Active at night.
Method of reproduction in which eggs are laid and embryos develop outside of the mother's body.
Pectoral fins
In fish, the pair of fins that are found one on each side of the body just behind the gills. They are generally used for balancing and braking.


  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2011)
  2. Heemstra, P. and Heemstra, E. (2004) Coastal fishes of Southern Africa. NISC, South Africa.
  3. Van der Elst, R. (1993) A Guide to the Common Sea Fishes of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  4. Florida Museum of Natural History (July, 2009)
  5. Campbell, A. and Dawes, J. (2004) Encyclopedia of Underwater Life. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Image credit

Dorsal view of pyjama shark  
Dorsal view of pyjama shark

© Doug Perrine / Inc.
77-6425 Kuakini Hwy.
Ste C2-200
Kailua Kona,


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