A cat shark is a member of the large family group Scyliorhinidae, of which there are around 152 species. Cat sharks are small sharks, only reaching up to 3 feet (1 m) from snout to tail. Native to many of the temperate, sub-tropical and tropical oceans of the world, some of the smaller and more attractive species are popular with enthusiasts as an unusual addition to marine aquariums. Cat shark species vary widely in appearance and behavior, but most lay their eggs in long, thin cases that have long, tangled filaments at each end to anchor the egg case.
Many of the deep water "ghost" species, which inhabit depths of more than 6,600 feet (2,200 m), have still not been extensively studied, and their behavior, breeding, communication patterns and feeding habits remain a mystery. Some species are known as dogfishes, and although they have an appearance similar to actual dogfish, they are different, unrelated species classified in different scientific groups. All cat shark species, even those known as dogfish, have an anal fin, whereas true dogfish species, Squaliformes, do not.
The chain dogfish is a striking and attractive cat shark, inhabiting sub-tropical oceans in a geographic range covering the west and northwest central Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea near Nicaragua. It is commonly found at depths of 120 feet (36 m), to more than 1,500 feet (460 m). The chain dogfish has distinctive black or deep brown markings that look like chain links on tan brown skin, which is how it gets its common name.
Like many cat shark species, it is a bottom feeder that prefers rocky terrain. This species remains hidden and motionless for long periods of time before ambushing prey or actively hunting small fish, squid and crustaceans. Both the banded and the lesser spotted cat shark also feed primarily on small fish and squid and are bottom feeders.
The banded cat shark is native to Australia and has banded stripes around its body, which begin as dark brown to black and fade as the cat shark ages. The lesser spotted cat shark has dark spots on silvery skin and inhabits rocky terrain or coral reefs; like the banded cat shark, it prefers to remain close to a known food source. The lesser spotted species are nocturnal, remaining motionless throughout the day and only actively hunting during the night. Both of these species are popular marine aquarium additions because of their distinctive coloring.