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Characteristics, distribution and ecology
Taxonomische classification
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Author: (Smith, 1838)

Field Marks:
Striking leopard-like colour pattern, nasal barbels, first dorsal fin positioned posteriorly.

Diagnostic Features:
Barbels of anterior nasal flaps longer, nearly or quite equal to nostril width, and usually reaching mouth. A striking, very handsome, leopard-like colour pattern of rosettes of dark spots and lines surrounding light centres, arranged in irregular longitudinal rows.

Geographical Distribution:
Eastern South Atlantic and western Indian Ocean: South Africa, Mauritius, Madagascar. Mauritius and Madagascar records require confirmation.

Habitat and Biology:
This attractive, small, stocky catshark is common in shallow temperate continental waters of South Africa, particularly in the vicinity of Algoa Bay, southeastern Cape region, but also to the west Cape and rarely up to Natal. Depths range from close inshore at the surf zone to the uppermost slopes at 256 m, on or near the bottom. Apparently nocturnal, and readily kept in cavity.

Reproduction oviparous.

Food includes small bony fishes, crustaceans and cephalopods.

Maximum 84 cm; males maturingbetween 54 and 59 cm and reaching 84 cm; females maturing between 58 and 61 cm and reaching at least 73 cm.

Interest to Fisheries:
None or limited, commonly taken by bottom trawlers and shore and boat anglers.

As noted by Bass, D'Aubrey and Kistnasamy (1975a), this species is rather variable in colour pattern, showing ontogenetic and geographic variation as well as individual differences. Examination of considerable series of specimens in the collections of the J.L.B. Smith Institute of Ichthyology suggest that the range of variation in this species, from numerous small dark spots, lines of rosettes of spots and circular bars, lines of mostly circular bars partially enclosing light centres, through lines of mixes larged light centred dark spots and circular bars, may grade into colour pattern of Poroderma marleyi with lines of large dark spots. This problem is being studied by the writer.

Type material:
Holotype: British Museum (Natural History), BMNH, 650 mm female. Type Locality: Cape of Good Hope, South Africa.

Leopard catshark (Poroderma pantherinum)