How’s this for irony? The draughtsboard shark is a species of the catshark family, but it can bark like a dog.
Technically, it doesn’t use its voice chords – sharks don’t have any organs to produce sound – to bark, but the sound is a result of its unique ability to puff up like a pufferfish. When threatened, the draughtsboard shark can pump water into its stomach and make itself three times as big to scare away possible predators. It returns back to its regular size by letting the water go out of its mouth. However, if the shark is caught and brought to the surface quickly, they can puff up with air instead of water. When this happens, the air is then expelled out of the body with a barking sound, to the amusement of fishermen.
The species is not the only shark that can expand its body to seem bigger to its predators. The blotchy swellshark and the Australian swellshark share this characteristic and have been confused with the draughtsboard shark by early scientists.
The draughtsboard shark lives in the Western Pacific, around the coasts of New Zealand, China, and Japan. It is considered to be endemic to New Zealand. It prefers to live in warm-temperate waters and is usually found on rocky and sandy bottoms at depths of 18 to 220 meters. By day, the shark likes to stay in crevices and caves of rocky reefs. At night, the shark often swims around reefs and over sandy bottoms to hunt for crabs, worms, octopus, squids, snails, krill, spiny lobster, and bony fishes. The shark has even been seen swimming around with the antennae of a lobster sticking out of its mouth – for hours!
The shark measures at the average length of 3.3 feet. Rarely, it has reached lengths of 4.9 feet – it’s maximum recorded size was 7.9 feet, but it is suspected that the 7.9 record was based on another species that resembles the draughtsboard shark. It has a thick body with a broad and flat head with a large mouth. It has dark blotches on its light brown or golden body, which is a coloration that’s common to catsharks. It has two dorsal fins that are placed far back on its body. The first dorsal fin is much larger than the second.
Usually segregated by sex, the draughtsboard shark mates when they are at least 24 inches long. The shark is oviparous – the female lays two cream-colored (or brown-colored) egg cases at a time. The eggs have long, spiral tendrils at the corners to help them to be attached to underwater objects such as macroalgaes and sea fans.
The shark is a common species and is harmless to humans. The IUCN lists the shark as Least Concern, since there is no great threat to the species other than the danger of being caught as bycatch by commercial fisheries. Since the shark can survive for a while outside of the water, many of them are thrown back into the water and keep on living. Their life span is unknown.