In the light of the groundbreaking study that Port Jackson sharks have individual personalities, we decided to look further into these common bottom-dwelling sharks of Southern Australia. Sometimes referred to as the “oyster crusher”, this unusual-looking species is our Wildlife of the Week:

Species: Heterodontus portusjacksoni

Class: Chondrichthyes

IUCN Status: Least Concern

Diet: Feeds on sea urchins, molluscs, crustaceans and fishes

Size: Grows up to 165 cm in length. More commonly, males grow to 75 cm and females between 80 cm and 95 cm

Behaviour: Active at night to hunt their prey, they segregate themselves into same-sex groups. Males and females occupy different habitats during most parts of the year and only encounter each other briefly for breeding

Distribution: Australia and New Zealand

Ecosystem: Live in rocky environments on, or near, the bottom. Sometimes they are found in muddy and sandy areas, or where seagrass occurs

5 Fast Facts:

  • They have the ability to eat and breathe at the same time. This ability is unusual for sharks, many of which need to swim with the mouth open to force water over the gills
  • A recent study found that they have individual personalities, just like humans
  • When they hatch, juvenile Port Jackson sharks, called pups, are about 25 cm long
  • They feed by sucking in water and sand from the bottom, blowing the sand out of the gill slits, and retaining the food which is swallowed
  • Female Port Jackson sharks mature at 11 to 14 years of age, whereas males only take around 8 to 10 years