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

Field Marks:
A fairly large and slender, bright yellow-spotted and grey-saddled catshark with small anterior nasal flaps that do not reach mouth, no nasoral grooves, labial furrows on lower jaw only, second dorsal fin much smaller than first.

Diagnostic Features:
Head and body relatively deep, slender and narrow; greatest width of head less than 2/3 of head length; no nasoral grooves; anterior nasal flaps not expanded and falling just short of mouth. First dorsal origin somewhat behind pelvic insertions; second dorsal origin over pelvic insertions; interdorsal space somewhat greater than anal base. Denticles fairly large and erect, skin relatively rough. Colour pattern of numerous small bright yellow spots about size of eye pupil or more; 8 or 9 dusky grey saddle marks on back; no dark spots. Size large, to 1.2 m.

Geographical Distribution:
Eastern South Atlantic and western Indian Ocean: South Africa (southwestern Cape Province east to Natal).

Habitat and Biology:
A common inshore to offshore temperate catshark on the Cape coast of South Africa, uncommon to rare norhwestward to Natal; depths recorded from 26 to 420 m, possibly deeper (420 m) off Natal than the south Cape (26 to 290 m) and perhaps showing tropical submergence.

Oviparous, laying one egg per oviduct at a time; egg cases about 8 cm long by 3 cm wide.

Feeds commonly on small bony fishes and crustaceans, also cephalopods.

Maximum recorded 122 cm; males maturing between 66 and 78 cm and reaching at least 95 cm; females maturing between 68 and 70 cm and reaching over 85 cm; size at hatching below 30 to 31 cm (size of young with umbilical scars).

Interest to Fisheries:
None at present, taken by commercial bottom trawls.

This species has been recorded from India (Günther, 1870, Day, 1878; based on a stuffed specimen in the British Museum (Natural History)) and Pakistan (Quereshi, 1972). Bass, D'Aubrey and Kistnasamy (1975) noted that Day's (1878, fig. 190, no. 1) illustration of his Indian capensis differs from this species in its colour pattern and first dorsal position, and suggest that the Indian shark is a different (possibly undescribed) species. The writer, in a short trip to India in 1982, was unable to find any Scyliorhinus specimens in collections and in the field, but that hardly means that Indo-Pakistani Scyliorhinus do not exist.

Type material:
Syntypes: Rijksmuseum van Natuurlijke Historie, Leiden, and British Museum (Natural History). Type Locality: Cape of Good Hope, South Africa.

Yellowspotted catshark (Scyliorhinus capensis)