Common name: Cow Sharks, Cowsharks, Sevengill Sharks, Sixgill Sharks



Rather primitive sharks with 6 or 7 pairs of gills (almost all other sharks have only 5 pairs of gills), a single dorsal fin without a spine, an inferior mouth with comb-shaped lower teeth and a caudal fin with a distinct subterminal notch.

Cite this page as:
William T. White, Cowsharks, HEXANCHIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 23 May 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

Family with 3 genera and 4 species widely throughout tropical and sub-tropical waters of the world, including Australia. Australian species were reviewed by Kemp (1977).

Family Distribution

Found worldwide in tropical and sub-tropical waters of the world. Cowsharks inhabit coastal and offshore waters of the continental shelf and slope, from the surface to about 1800 m.

Family Size

Length 90 cm to 4.8 m.

Family Feeding

Cowsharks feed on fishes, crustaceans and carrion.

Family Reproduction

Reproduction ovoviviparous - the embryops develop from eggs that hatch inside the uterus, and the young are born alive.

Family Biology

Bass, A.J., D'Aubrey, J.D. & Kistnasamy, N. 1975. Sharks of the east coast of southern Africa. Part 5. The families Hexanchidae, Chlamydoselachidae, Heterodontidae, Pristiophoridae and Squatinidae. Investigational Report. Oceanographical Research Institute, Durban 43: 1-50 figs 1-12 pls 1-9

Compagno, L.J.V. 1984. FAO Species Catalogue. Sharks of the World. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Hexanchiformes to Lamniformes. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 125. Rome : FAO Vol. 4(1) pp. 1-249

Compagno, L.J.V. & Niem, V.H. 1998. Hexanchidae, Echinorhinidae, Squalidae. pp. 1208-1232 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 2 687-1396 pp.

Compagno, L.J.V., Dando, M. & Fowler, S. 2005. A Field Guide to the Sharks of the World. London : Collins 368 pp.

Garrick, J.A.F. & Paul, L.J. 1971. Heptranchias dakini Whitley, 1931, a synonym of H. perlo (Bonnaterre, 1788), the sharpsnouted sevengill or perlon shark, with notes on sexual dimorphism in this species. Zoological Publications of the Victoria University, Wellington 54: 1-14 pls 1-2

Kemp, N.R. 1978. Detailed comparisons of the dentitions of extant hexanchid sharks and tertiary hexanchid teeth from South Australia and Victoria, Australia (Selachii : Hexanchidae). Memoirs of the National Museum of Victoria, Melbourne 39: 61-83 figs 1-5 pls 12-15

Last, P.R. & Stevens, J.D. 1994. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Canberra : CSIRO Australia 513 pp. 84 pls

Last, P.R. & Stevens, J.D. 2009. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Collingwood : CSIRO Publishing Australia 2, 550 pp.

McCulloch, A.R. 1911. Report on the fishes obtained by the F.I.S. Endeavour on the coasts of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. Part 1. Zoological (Biological) Results. Endeavour 1(1): 1-87 figs 1-20 pls 1-16 [pl. 1]

White, W.T. 2008. Shark Families Heterodontidae to Pristiophoridae. pp. 32-100 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.


William T. White