This bull has horns!

Well, they’re not actually horns, they’re spikes. And the “horns” that give it its name are actually the orbital ridges — above its eyes. But this shark IS a type of BULL shark, and it does APPEAR to have horns. Gotcha! 😛


The horn shark, Heterodontus francisci, is a rather small species of bullhead or blunt-nosed shark that lives off the coast of California and Mexico. During the warmer months, it stays in water not much deeper than thirty feet, but in the winter it dives to depths of over 100 feet, often even holing up inside caves down there. Even during its shallow-water months, the horn shark likes to hide out in caves and rock crevices during the day. And mother sharks “plant” their screw-shaped eggs into crevices and holes as well. Adults and juveniles both come out during the night to feed, although juveniles prefer the most shallow water and the softer-bodied animals.

Here you can clearly see both types of “horns” — the “supra-orbital” or eye ridges, and the sharp spikes further along the back.

Horn sharks are small and sluggish. They don’t really hurt anyone with those sharp spines, as they are apt to swim away rather than hold their ground, if disturbed. Their entire body is only about one meter or 3 feet long. They do not swim very well, but mostly just push themselves along the shallow ocean seabed, hunting for sea worms and anemones while they are young, and harder shelled creatures like mollusks and crabs when they are older. When the shell is particularly difficult to crack open, the horn shark will sometimes use its body as a lever, positioning the tail up, then thrusting it downwards to force the mouth up, like the motion you use with a bottle opener.

One amazing fact about horn sharks is that they are extremely sensitive to light. As mentioned, in the wild they hide out during the day and hunt at night. But in captivity, they hide away as soon as light is turned on, regardless of the actual time of day. In times when the light has been left off for days, horn sharks did not stop moving the entire time, until they finally just got worn out and had to rest! And even if it’s only been off for minutes, just as soon as that light turns back on, horn sharks either find a place to hide, or merely stop moving and sink to the bottom like a rock. What a funny little bull! 😛

— pics from Wikimedia Commons

More on this species:
Wikipedia: Horn shark
ARKive: California horn shark
Encyclopedia of Life
Animal Diversity Web
Our Wild World
Florida Museum



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