Pyjama shark (Poroderma africanum)

Also known as: striped catshark
GenusPoroderma (1)
SizeMax length: 1 m (2)

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

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).

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

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).

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).

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

Find out more about the conservation of rays and sharks:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  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.