The chain catshark (Scyliorhinus retifer) is a species of catshark that belongs to the family Scyliorhinidae. It is a small and slender shark found in the western Atlantic Ocean, specifically along the eastern coast of North America, from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico.
The chain catshark is known for its distinctive appearance, which includes a series of dark, chain-like markings on its body, hence the common name “chain catshark.” It is typically brown to grey in colour with these chain-like patterns, which help it blend in with its sandy and rocky habitats on the ocean floor. Its body is elongated, and it has two dorsal fins and a slender tail.
This shark is relatively small, typically growing to a maximum length of 59 cm (23 in.)¹. It is a nocturnal predator that feeds on small fish, crustaceans, and other bottom-dwelling organisms.
The chain catshark is oviparous, which means it lays eggs rather than giving birth to live young. The female deposits egg cases, often called “mermaid’s purses,” in sheltered areas. The eggs have long tendrils at their corners, which help anchor them to underwater structures.
Like many other catshark species, the chain catshark is of relatively low commercial importance and is not typically targeted by fisheries, in part because it often inhabits rough bottoms unsuited for trawling, from 58 m to 550 m on the continental shelf and upper slope².
The chain catshark may be a rare seasonal visitor of the St. Lawrence, but data is currently lacking to confirm its status.