Horn Shark

Horn Shark (Heterodontus francisci) as seen in our Coastal Waters exhibit.

Horn Sharks are a small species related to the Bullhead Shark. A typical specimen rarely exceeds 3 feet (1 meter) in length and is generally docile by nature unless antagonized. They are striking-looking animals with a blunted head, curved snout and prominent horn-like ridges over each eye. Their mouth is on the underside of the head and is filled with molar-like teeth used to crush the shells of crustaceans, echinoderms and mollusks after the shark has sucked these animals out of the sediment. The shark is usually grey or dark brown in color, sometimes with a speckled skin pattern. They have two prominent dorsal fins, the first of which is preceded by a long, sharp spine. 

Horn Sharks are nocturnal. They will hunt at night but during the day will rest on the ocean floor, in rocky outcrops, algae beds and kelp forests. 


Range & Habitat 

Horn Sharks live along the continental shelf on the west coast of North America. Their usual range is from Monterey Bay, California, south to the Gulf of California. Depending on currents and ocean temperatures, they may expand their range and some have been seen as far north as the San Francisco Bay. They are not a species native to Oregon, but can be seen in our California Kelp Forest exhibit. They normally live at depths of 6 to 36 feet (2 to 11 meters). They are often be found in close proximity to Swell Sharks, a related species that has similar habits. 


Conservation Status 

At present, there is not enough information about the population of Horn Sharks to ascertain their exact numbers. They are not harvested by humans although they may occasionally be pulled aboard a fishing vessel as bycatch.

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