The Horn Shark: All you need to know!

The horn shark is a tiny, common, bottom-dweller in the warm seas off western North America. A member of the Bullhead Shark genus, it (Heterodontidae). Its name originates from its small, blunt skull with prominent ridges above the eyes. It has huge spines on its two prominent dorsal fins, and many little black dots on brownish grey skin. Most adults measure around 1 m, while the greatest length of this species is 1.2 m (3.3 ft) (3.3 ft).

Horn sharks have a narrow home range, generally no bigger than 1,000 m². They tend to stay there in the same general region, remaining there year after year. A horn shark has been reported to go up to a distance of 16.3 kilometres (10 miles).

Horn sharks are most active at night, when ambient light levels are lowest. In addition, their abundance is connected to water temperatures exceeding 21°C (70°F), since they dislike the cold.

Horn sharks can end up with purple coloured teeth from eating so many sea urchins!

Range and Environment

The horn shark is indigenous to the coasts of the Pacific Ocean off the coasts of North America, Mexico, and perhaps Ecuador and Peru. For most of the year, it prefers to remain in shallow water, between 2 and 11 metres (6.5 and 35 feet) deep, although it migrates to deeper areas during the winter.

These slow fish have specific needs based on their age. Mature sharks return to the shallower waters they left behind as juveniles, preferring the deeper sand flats. Adults like stony reefs or dense algae beds, which are shallower and have more hiding spots.

There is less rivalry for food and habitat among younger sharks as a result of this age disparity. The baby sharks utilise feeding trenches produced by rays (another species of cartilaginous fish) for cover and hunting locations, which you may question how they are able to conceal in such flat regions.

Feeding Behavior

Horn sharks are sluggish predators who normally hunt alone, at night. Afterwards, they’ll spend their days at a shelter, which they’ll return to often.

As adults, sharks’ primary food sources include hard-shelled crustaceans, starfish, sea urchins, and other aquatic creatures. Other prey includes octopus and squid, certain smaller crustaceans, and bony fish. This fish possesses the strongest known biting force for its size relative to any other shark to crush all those shells. Young sharks prefer softer food like worms, tiny clams, and sea anemones.

These sharks have two types of teeth (thus the Latin genus name Heterodontus, meaning “different teeth”). The little front teeth have a hook, and they are for capturing prey. The larger side teeth are more like molars, and they are for grinding.

Social Behavior

Horn sharks are generally lonely species. Sharks and other huge fish are their predators.


December and January are prime months for horn shark mating. A few weeks later, the female will deposit her fertilised eggs. From early February to April, females lay two eggs every 11 to 14 days, producing up to 24 eggs during a single breeding season. The cone-shaped egg casings are frequently placed in shallow water. The cases are then wedged into cracks by the females to keep predators at bay.

A developing embryo might take anywhere from six to ten months, depending on the temperature. It takes approximately a month for the freshly hatched sharks to begin feeding, which they do when they are between 15 and 17 cm (6 and 7′′) long. It’s unknown how long this species will live or how fast it will grow. Growth is often considered to be gradual.

Humans and Conservation

If left alone, horn sharks pose little harm to people. However, if disturbed by divers, they may bite. Because of their hardiness and ability to reproduce in captivity, these fish may be found in many public aquariums around the United States.

They have little commercial value and hence are not a target of fisheries. Small numbers are caught accidently and normally discarded, although they may be utilised. A “Bycatch” from trawling in Mexico is utilised for fishmeal and food in that country. In California the bigger horn shark spines are fashioned into jewellery. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) does not have enough information to establish the conservation status of this species, hence it has no special conservation status.

However, decreasing horn shark concentrations have been seen in popular diving spots in Southern California.

By Coricia

Marketing manager and co-Chief Editor of Maritime Herald.