Horn Shark
Heterodontus francisi

Physical Description

  • Small shark, only growing to 4 feet long
  • Named for the prominent spines, or “horns”, in front of its dorsal fins
  • Shades of tan and gray, with a blunt snout
  • Prominent ridges over eyes
  • Prominent black spots over entire body


  • From central California to Baja California


  • Found in kelp forests and rocky reefs
  • Hide in caves and recesses during the day and hunt at night
  • Prefer water less than 40 feet deep


  • Crustaceans, sea urchins, small fish, molluscs


  • Other sharks and large fish

Interesting Facts

  • These sharks have some of the most unique eggs in the animal kingdom. Their egg cases are spirals, which the females that they wedge into crevices; the spiral keeps the egg from drifting away. The shark pup inside the egg case will take about 6-9 months to hatch. 
  • To crack the shells of their prey, the horn shark generates the highest known bite force relative to its size of any shark
  • Horn sharks are hunted for their spines, which are turned into jewelry. They are also often caught as bycatch in fisheries. 

Sources: Monterey Bay Aquarium; Huber et al. 2005; Florida Museum

Photo: David R. Andrew

Want to see a live horn shark? Catch one on Birch Aquarium’s Kelp Cam, or visit Birch Aquarium today! You can also hold a horn shark egg at Birch’s touch tank or during their Spring Eggstravaganza


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