Prickly Shark, Echinorhinus cookei
The Prickly Shark, Echinorhinus cookei, whose common Spanish name is tiburón espinoso negro, is a species in the Bramble Shark or Echinorhinidae Family, known collectively as tiburones espinosos in Mexico. There is only one species in the genus Echinorhinus, this species, which is found in Mexican waters of the Pacific.
The Prickly Sharks have cylindrical robust bodies. They are a uniform grayish-brown color with white around their snout and mouth. All their fins have black margins. They have a flattened head with a short snout. Their teeth are similar on both sides and have one large point and three small points on their sides. They have five gill slits with the last one being longer than the others. Their spiracles are small and located well before the eyes. They do not have anal fins. All of their fins are short and blunt. The caudal fin is strongly asymmetrical with a small lower lobe and without a notch under the tip. They have two small equally-sized dorsal fins (a key to identification) located at the rear of their body and well behind their pelvic fins and large pelvic fins located well back on their body. They are covered with numerous closely-packed regularly-spaced thorn-like denticles that resemble coarse sandpaper (after which they are named) which they use to wound prey.
The Prickly Sharks are a slow-moving demersal species found on the continental shelf, insular shelves, and upper slopes at depths between 30 and 3,600 feet. They reach a maximum length of 4.5 meters (14 feet 9 inches). They feed on a variety of fish, other sharks, and squid. Reproduction is ovoviviparous with litters of up to 114 live pups that are 40 to 45 cm (16 to 18 inches) at birth.
In Mexican waters the Prickly Shark are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from north of La Paz in the Sea of Cortez.
The Prickly Shark is easy to identify and cannot be confused with any other species.
The Prickly Sharks are quite rare and seldom seen by humans.
Prickly Shark, Echinorhinus cookei. Fish caught in coastal waters off of Puerto Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, April 2008. It was an end product of gorilla warfare between the fish above and a 24 foot Northern Elephant Seal, Mirounga angustirostris. The Seal abandoned the shark as the Panguero approached allowing it to be gaffed. Catch and photo courtesy of Eric Brictson, La Playita, Baja California Sur. Length 1.20 meters (4 feet 0 inches). Identification reconfirmed by H.J. Walker, Jr., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA.