Apristurus spongiceps 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Chondrichthyes Carcharhiniformes Pentanchidae

Scientific Name: Apristurus spongiceps (Gilbert, 1905)
Common Name(s):
English Spongehead Catshark
French Holbiche Tête Molle
Spanish Pejegato Esponjosa
Catulus spongiceps Gilbert, 1905
Parapristurus spongiceps (Springer, 1979)
Pentanchus spongiceps (Fowler, 1941)
Taxonomic Source(s): Eschmeyer, W.N. and Fricke, R. (eds). 2015. Catalog of Fishes: genera, species, references. Updated 1 October 2015. Available at: (Accessed: 1 October 2015).
Taxonomic Notes: The genus Apristurus contains at least 32 described species and a relatively large number of potentially undescribed ones. Morphological conservatism and, until recently, a lack of objectively defined characters makes this one of the most taxonomically confused shark genera (Compagno 1984, Nakaya and Sato 1999).

Nakaya and Sato (1999) defined three species groups within Apristurus: the longicephalus-group (two species), brunneus-group (20 species) and spongiceps-group (10 species). The spongiceps-group is characterized by: a short, wide snout (prenarial length <6% TL, 0.36 to 0.94 times in interorbital); 7 to 12 valves in the spiral intestine; upper labial furrows subequal to, or shorter than the lower furrows; a continuous supraorbital sensory canal (Nakaya and Sato 1999). A. spongiceps is readily distinguished from its congeners by its unique pleated gills (Compagno 1984).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Data Deficient ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2014-03-19
Assessor(s): Duffy, C.A.J., Huveneers, C., Cordova, J. & Ebert, D.A.
Reviewer(s): Jew, M.L. & Nehmens, M.C.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Lawson, J., Walls, R.H.L. & Dulvy, N.K.

Spongehead Catshark (Apristurus spongiceps) is a deepwater catshark known only from a female holotype and a juvenile paratype. The holotype is 51.4 cm total length and was caught near Bird Island in the Hawaiian Islands. The juvenile paratype is 10.5 cm total length and was caught in the Banda Sea, south of Sulawesi, Indonesia. These specimens were collected on or near the bottom at depths between 572 and 1,482 m. Given that only two specimens have been encountered globally, Spongehead Catshark is currently assessed as Data Deficient.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The species is known from only two specimens in the tropical Pacific; one from the Hawaiian Islands and the other from the Banda Sea, south of Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Countries occurrence:
Indonesia (Sulawesi); United States (Hawaiian Is.)
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Pacific – western central; Pacific – eastern central
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):1482
Upper depth limit (metres):572
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:There is no information on population trend or abundance for this species.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Spongehead Catshark is only known from two specimens that were taken on insular slopes, on or near the bottom between 572 and 1,482 m depth. The holotype is a 51.4 cm total length (TL) gravid female caught off the Hawaiian Islands. The paratype, collected south of Sulawesi, is a 10.5 cm TL juvenile.

Apristurus species are small, deepwater sharks that live on or near the bottom on the upper continental slope. Reproduction is oviparous with one egg per oviduct and egg cases are usually thick-walled and about 5 to 6.8 cm long and 2.5 to 2.9 cm wide. The anterior end of the case has a long weak fibrous thread on each corner. The posterior end usually has two small processes, each with a long coiled tendril. As in shallow water scyliorhinids the coiled tendrils are probably used to attach the egg cases to hard substrates and/or biogenic structures as they are laid.

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is not known to be utilized.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Threats for Spongehead Catshark are unknown. Other species of deepwater Chondrichthyans are captured as bycatch in deepwater fisheries. Deepwater fisheries have expand at an annual rate of 62.5 m depth per decade from 1950-2004 (Watson and Morato 2013). If they continue to expand this species too may be captured incidentally in deepwater fisheries.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: No conservation measures are currently in place for this species.

Classifications [top]

10. Marine Oceanic -> 10.1. Marine Oceanic - Epipelagic (0-200m)

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Action Recovery plan:No
  Systematic monitoring scheme:No
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats

Bibliography [top]

Compagno, L.J.V. 1984. FAO species catalogue. Vol. 4. Sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 125, Volume 4, Part 1.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Nakaya, K. and Sato, K. 1999. Species grouping within the genus Apristurus (Elasmobranchii: Scyliorhinidae). In: B. Séret and J.-Y. Sire (eds). Proceedings of the 5th Indo-Pacific Fish Conference (Nouméa, 3-8 November 1997). Paris, Society Francaise d’Ichthyologie et Instutue de Recherches pour le Development: 307–320.

Watson, R.A. and Morato, T. 2013. Fishing down the deep: Accounting for within-species changes in depth of fishing. Fisheries Research 140: 63-65.

Citation: Duffy, C.A.J., Huveneers, C., Cordova, J. & Ebert, D.A. 2015. Apristurus spongiceps. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T44226A80671692. . Downloaded on 26 September 2018.
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