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Puffadder shysharks come in two types—cape and natal. The cape form has seven reddish-brown “saddles” bordered by black, with many small dark brown and white spots between the saddles. The natal form is cream colored, with darker brown saddles and irregular white spots. Both types are white underneath. Puffadder snakes sport similar coloring, hence the first part of this shark’s name. When pulled from the water, puffadder shysharks cover their eyes with their tails, hence the second part of their name.
These well-camouflaged sharks stay close to their home base on the seafloor. The more numerous cape sharks prefer deeper and colder water than natal sharks, which live in warmer water close inshore. Like other catsharks, puffadder shysharks have piglike snouts, nasal barbels (fleshy feelers), spiracles behind their eyes and oval catlike eyes.
The puffadders’ status is near threatened. They live in a limited range within heavily fished and possibly contaminated nearshore waters. An increase in the number or size of present fisheries could result in more bycatch and habitat destruction, impacting the population of puffadder sharks.
Biologists are debating this question: do puffadder sharks come in two different types because one lives near shore and the other prefers deeper water, or are they two different species?
Puffadder females lay eggs in tough capsules with threadlike filaments, which attach the eggs to the seafloor. They lay two eggs at one time.