Fun Swell Shark Facts For Kids | Kidadl


Fun Swell Shark Facts For Kids

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A swell shark (Cephaloscyllium ventriosum) is a fish species from the catshark family Scyliorhinidae. It is named the swell shark because of its defensive tactics against predators wherein it 'swells' up its body with water, making it harder for a predator to manipulate or even attack it, sometimes even wedging it between rocky crevices. The swell shark species are found in the temperate eastern Pacific Ocean from Monterey Bay in Central California to the Gulf of California, and going down to southern Mexico as well as up to central Chile. This species likes to live near the seafloor, and lying motionless near it, waiting for prey to be swept into its mouth by the current since it is a lethargic swimmer. It is a nocturnal creature that preys at night and rests during the day. These fishes usually live alone but are sometimes found piled on top of each other. Some interesting physical features are that it has golden eyes and it exhibits bioluminescence. They sometimes get accidentally caught in lobster and crab traps. It is classified as a species of Least Concern by the IUCN.

Read on to learn about this species. For more relatable content, check out these hammerhead shark interesting facts and bull shark facts for kids pages.

Fun Swell Shark Facts For Kids

What do they prey on?

Bony fishes, crustaceans, mollusks, lobsters

What do they eat?


Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?

10-22 lb (4.5-10 kg)

How long are they?

31.5-43 in (80-110 cm)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

Yellow-brown, brown, white

Skin Type

Rough Scales

What were their main threats?

Humans, Seals, Marine Snails, Sea Lions, Bigger Sharks

What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them?

The Ocean


North America, South America, Eastern Pacific Ocean









Swell Shark Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a swell shark?

The swell shark (Cephaloscyllium ventriosum) species is a fish.

What class of animal does a swell shark belong to?

The swell shark (Cephaloscyllium ventriosum) species belongs to the Chondrichthyes class of animals.

How many swell sharks are there in the world?

The total number of swell shark fishes in the world is unknown.

Where does a swell shark live?

The swell shark (Cephaloscyllium ventriosum) species lives in the habitat range of temperate and tropical or subtropical waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean. Its geographical range is from Monterey Bay in Central California to the Gulf of California, to southern Mexico, and going up to the central parts of Chile.

What is a swell shark's habitat?

The swell shark (Cephaloscyllium ventriosum) species lives in a habitat range of continental waters in the warm-temperate to subtropical and tropical zones. Its living zone can be called epibenthic or benthic, which means it lives near the continental shelves or the seafloor or very close to them. The species is most commonly found near depths of 16-89 ft (5-37 m), but it can live up to depths of 1500 ft (457 m). It prefers rocky bottoms that are covered in algae and kelp. It may also do without kelp beds. Swell sharks like to stay motionless in the water during the daytime, hiding in caves and rocky crevices. They are nocturnal and are seen slowly swimming during the night, throughout their algal bottoms, or even in open waters.

Who do swell sharks live with?

Swell sharks are usually found living alone, but they are also sometimes found in groups. When seen in groups, it is during the day when they are usually resting, piled on top of one another.

How long does a swell shark live?

A swell shark may live for 20-35 years.

How do they reproduce?

The swell shark is an oviparous species meaning the female lays eggs, two internally fertilized amber or green colored eggs. The swell shark eggs get attached to rocky areas and algae so that they are protected. The eggs of swell sharks have tendrils, which are thread-like structures that hold on to the rocky structures and seaweeds, to keep them from drifting away. The length of the tendrils of the swell shark egg case is dependent on the amount of surf and the current action of its region. The normal size and dimension of the egg case are 0.98-2 in (2.5-5.1 cm) by 3-5.1 in (7.6-13 cm). The embryos of the eggs feed on the yolk before hatching. The gestation period is length is between 9-12 months, but may also be dependent on the water temperature. The ready-to-hatch pups have two rows of big dermal denticles that help them get out of the egg case. The newborns and juveniles do not receive much help or assistance from their parents, nor do they need any, since their normal size is about 6 in (15 cm) long when they come out of the egg case and able to feed themselves, on small fish, mollusks, and crustaceans.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of the swell shark according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature is Least Concern.

Swell Shark Fun Facts

What do swell sharks look like?

Swell sharks are 31.5-43 in (80-110 cm) in body length when adult and about 6 in (15 cm) long when they are born. The swell shark has a peculiar body. The head of a swell shark is flat and broad. The snout of the swell shark is broadly rounded and short. It also has nasal flaps that reach its mouth. Swell sharks have golden eyes that close sideways (called nictitating eyelids). Swell sharks can be called large and variegated (showing different patches of colors) species of catshark. The swell shark has a yellow-brown body, with brown and white spots. Apart from the white spots, spots lighter in color occasionally appear on the body, fins, underside of the head, as well as abdomen. The juveniles of the swell shark species are lighter than full-grown adults. Swell sharks also have small and tight gills. A swell shark has two dorsal fins on its body with the second one being smaller than the first. Swell sharks three smooth teeth cusps with the middle one being the longest, but some may have as many as five. The total number of teeth is 55-60.

Swell sharks have golden eyes and eyelids that close sideways.

How cute are they?

Swell sharks are beautiful creatures. They have rough skin that is yellow-brown and has white and dark spots all over it. The most striking feature of the swell shark is its golden eyes. They also have eyelids that close sideways. It is a big, bottom-dwelling shark that is motionless during the day. They are harmless to humans and hence are a very common fish in public aquariums.

How do they communicate?

Being sharks, swell sharks may be able to interpret electronic signals and perceive chemical signals as well. They are also capable of communicating with each other via biofluorescence, wherein they emit light from their bodies and look blue-green. Also, swell shark swelling as a defense tactic is quite well known. They form a U-shape and draw water into their bodies, puffing them up and lodging themselves in between rocks so a predator like a sea lion, or bigger sharks, or seals can't get to them. They are also capable of drawing in air for this purpose, and they let the water or air out with a bark sound.

How big is a swell shark?

A swell shark is  31.5-43 in (80-110 cm) long, which makes it three to four times smaller than the Caribbean reef shark. They are also slightly smaller, or the same size, as the similar-looking horn sharks.

How fast can a swell shark swim?

The exact speeds that a swell shark can swim at are unknown, but we do know that they are not capable of catching up to faster prey, and they lie motionless for a good amount of their time.

How much does a swell shark weigh?

A swell shark weighs 10 - 22 lb (4.5-10 kg).

What are the male and female names of the species?

The males and females of the swell shark species do not have specific names.

What would you call a baby swell shark?

A baby swell shark may be called a juvenile or a pup.

What do they eat?

A swell shark being a nocturnal fish, typically hunts at night, feeding on a diet of bony fish, mollusks, and crustaceans. They may eat a diet of prey that is dead or alive. Swell sharks are not quick enough to go after faster, more active prey. They feed at night so they get the inactive fish. They show peculiar behavior when feeding. They suck their prey into their mouths while they skulk motionlessly on the floor of the sea, or they just wait with their mouths open to eat prey that may swim into their paths via strong currents. Swell sharks have also been known to eat lobsters from the lobster traps laid out by humans.

Are they dangerous?

No, swell sharks are not dangerous. They are harmless to humans. They also don't bite humans if they happen to be in the vicinity, in the ocean.

Would they make a good pet?

Swell sharks, because of their being harmless, solitary, largely stationary nature, and having a strikingly beautiful appearance make for a very good public aquarium fish. However, it may not be possible to provide a proper home for them in personal fish tanks, since they are not the smallest sharks, and because they need to live near the large areas of the seafloor.

Did you know...

Developing swell shark embryos are sometimes eaten by marine snails, which bore through the egg casing.

Although swell sharks are brought to public aquariums for people to marvel at, they are not hunted for their meat which is too tough and of poor quality. They do however get caught in lobster traps, as well as in other lobster and crab trapping devices like trawls and gillnets. They are not a threatened species, but due to getting caught in lobster and crab traps, and the resulting decrease in reproduction, the conservation of the shell shark species might become imperative soon.

Swell sharks are best described by their peculiar behavior and the ability to swell up when threatened by predators, which is how they get their name.

Being sharks, the body temperature of the swell shark resembles the water temperature around it.

Can a swell shark survive 24 hours without water?

When taken out of the water, in defense, swell sharks are known to draw in air instead of water, and they can definitely live without water for some time, but it is unclear if they can indeed survive for a whole 24 hours outside of the water. But since they are such hardy animals, they might. The Australian swell sharks (Cephaloscyllium laticeps), on the other hand, are confirmed to survive more than a day outside water.

How does the swell shark react when threatened?

The swell shark displays excellent defensive capabilities. When they are threatened by a predator nearby, they puff up or swell their bodies with water or even air. They wedge their swollen bodies and bellies between rocks or in crevices. They cannot be pulled out by predators from these crevices. They use similar tactics when under threat in the open. They hold their tails in their mouths, forming a U-shape and drawn in water using the sphincter muscles at either end of their stomachs to trap and hold the water. This makes it difficult for predators like sea lions, bigger sharks, and seals to grab onto or manipulate them. When they want to release the water, they relax the sphincter muscles, letting out a bark-like sound.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fishes from our oceanic whitetip fun facts or the Port Jackson shark surprising facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Swell shark coloring pages.

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