Port Jackson Shark, Heterodontus portusjacksoni (Meyer 1793)

Other Names: Bullhead, Bullhead Shark, Dogshark, Horn Shark, Oyster Crusher, Oyster-crusher, Pigfish, Tabbigaw

A group of Portjackson Sharks, Heterodontus portusjacksoni, at Nepean Bay, Port Phillip, Victoria. Source: Mark Norman / Museum Victoria. License: CC by Attribution

A small to medium-sized greyish to brown bottom-dwelling shark with dark harness-like markings on the head and body, a large robust head, a blunt snout and a low ridge or crest over each eye. The Port Jackson Shark has two triangular dorsal fins, each with a strong spine, and a small anal fin, and jaws with sharp grasping teeth at the front, and flat grinding molars at the rear. 

Port Jackson sharks lay dark brown spiral egg cases, and the young hatch after about one year.

Video of Port Jackson Sharks during the breeding season in Cabbage Tree Bay, Sydney, New South Wales. The second shark in the video is a Crested Port Jackson Shark.

Video of Port Jackson Sharks in Sydney, New South Wales.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Heterodontus portusjacksoni in Fishes of Australia, accessed 22 Jun 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/1982

Port Jackson Shark, Heterodontus portusjacksoni (Meyer 1793)

More Info


Widespread in the southern half of Australia from Byron Bay, New SOuth Wales, to the Houtman Abrolhos, Western Australia, including Tasmania, and possibly southern Queensland. One individual has also been recorded from New Zealand. 

Inhabits rocky reefs and adjacent sandy and seagrass areas, at depths to 275 m. The species is nocturnal, and individuals usually shelter in caves and under ledges during the day. Males and females aggregate in large numbers in gutters and caves during the winter breeding season.


Vertebrae: 114 (precaudal 76-81)

Body stout, deepest immediately behind head, tapering towards tail; keels and precaudal pits on caudal peduncle absent. Head very blunt, robust, moderately large (approx. 23% TL), low ridge over each eye, sloping gently behind; nostrils connected to mouth by deep groove; eyes oval; spiracles small; mouth small, subterminal; upper and lower jaws with sharp grasping teeth anteriorly and flat grinding teeth behind; five gill slits, last three above pectoral fin. 

Two dorsal fins, each with a strong spine, second only slightly smaller than first; anal fin small, below and immediately behind second dorsal; caudal fin heterocercal, upper lobe slightly larger than lower, with distinct subterminal notch. Pectoral fins large, broad. Pelvic-fin base below interdorsal space.


To 1.7 m.


Body light greyish to brownish with dark harness-like markings on the body.


Port Jackson Sharks have small sharp teeth in the front of the jaws and molars at the rear, used for grabbing then crushing their prey of molluscs, crustaceans, echinoderms and fishes. Port Jackson sharks are nocturnal and usually forage at night.


The species is nocturnal, and has sex‐specific seasonal activity patterns. In New South Wales, individuals migrate along the coast and aggregate under ledges, and in gutters and caves during late winter to breed. 

Females lay 10-16 soft leathery spiral egg cases that usually become wedged into crevices on shallow reefs. The young hatch at about 23 cm after about a year.


Although not targeted, Port Jackon sharks are taken in demersal gillnet and trawl fisheries in southern Australia. They are discarded (often alive) as the flesh and fins are considered to be of poor quality. They are also caught by recreational anglers.

Port Jackon sharks are also popular exhibits in aquaria, with commercial collecting is controlled by government legislation.


  • IUCN Red List : Least Concern
  • Remarks

    Although not considered dangerous, the dorsal-fin spines are venomous and Port Jackson Sharks should be handled with care. They also have small sharp teeth at the front of their jaws and may be aggressive if provoked.

    Similar Species

    As the common name suggests, the Crested Horn Shark, Heterodontus galeatus, has large prominent crests above the eyes. It also lacks the dark harness-like markings on the sides.


    The species is named for the type locality, Port Jackson.

    Species Citation

    Squalus portusjacksoni Meyer, 1793, Systematisch-summarische Uebersicht der neuesten zoologischen Entdeckungen in Neuholland und Afrika:71.
    Type locality: Port Jackson


    Bray, D.J. 2020


    Atlas of Living Australia

    Port Jackson Shark, Heterodontus portusjacksoni (Meyer 1793)


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  • Quick Facts

    CAAB Code:37007001

    Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

    Danger:Venomous spines

    Depth:1-275 m

    Habitat:Reef associated

    Max Size:170 cm TL

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    CAAB distribution map