Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Horn Shark

Heterodontus francisci


Fun Facts

    The female horn shark lays a distinctive spiral-shaped egg case.

    Horn sharks are nocturnal; they are inactive during the day and become active at night.




The horn shark is a type of bullhead shark that lives on the bottom of the sea floor. The adults live on rocky reefs, in caves, crevices, or in algae beds. Juveniles live on the sandy bottom. Horn sharks occur from Southern California to the Gulf of California. The body is brown or gray with many small dark spots. The head is short and blunt with ridges over its eyes. The two dorsal fins have large spines. The horn shark is the only species of shark that has two spined dorsal fins and an anal fin. Another local species of shark also has spined dorsal fins, the spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias), but it lacks an anal fin.

Horn sharks feed on a variety of invertebrates, such as marine snails, crabs, squid, sea urchins, sea stars, and small fishes. Most species of sharks give birth to live young, however, approximately 30% of shark species lay eggs. Two local species, the horn shark and the swell shark (Cephaloscyllium ventriosum), are egg-layers. Female horn sharks lay two egg cases once every 11 to 14 days between February and April. The eggs hatch in six to nine months. The color and texture of the eggs serve to camouflage them as they rest among the debris and rubble of the bottom.

Horn sharks are usually found at the Aquarium in tank number 15 and 35.