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Whitespotted Izak

Holohalaelurus punctatus


The whitespotted izak, also known as the African spotted catshark, is a small endemic shark found off the coasts of South Africa, Mozambique and Madagascar. Not much is known about the biology or life history of this rare species.

Whitespotted izaks were once a common catch in bottom trawl fisheries off South Africa and Mozambique. However, there has not been a single confirmed catch of this species in this area since 1972. The only confirmed individuals caught since then are from Madagascar in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

This species is oviparous: it lays eggs. Unusually for sharks, males of this species are larger than females and some degree of sexual segregation is thought to occur. Juveniles of this species have never been seen, causing scientists to suggest they occur in deeper waters than the adults. Not very much is known about the species, as it has become rare in the past two decades.

It is not known with certainty why populations have declined, although overexploitation from trawling fisheries might be one of the reasons. Pollution and habitat loss could also contribute to the decline seen in the population.

There are currently no conservation actions taking place for this species. The IUCN Red List of threatened species recommends that surveys be undertaken in South Africa and Mozambique. The Madagascan population should also be studied as Madagascar may be a refuge for the species. Bycatch information needs to be gathered from fisheries operating in the area to gain a better understanding of population numbers.

  • Order: Carcharhiniformes
  • Family: Pentanchidae
  • Population: Unknown
  • Trend: decreasing
  • Size: 35cm (?)
  • Depth Range (m): Up to 420m

EDGE Score

EDGE Score: 5.72 (?)
ED Score: 37.11 (?)
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


This species occurs in the Indian Ocean off the coasts of north-eastern South Africa, southern Mozambique and Madagascar.

Habitat and Ecology

The whitespotted izak is found at depths of between 220 and 420m. They feed on fish, crustaceans and cephalopods.

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