The Bullhead sharks are a small order (Heterodontiformes) of basal modern sharks (Neoselachii). There are nine living species in a single genus, Heterodontus, in the family Heterodontidae. All are relatively small, with the largest species being just 150 centimetres (59 in) in adult length. They are bottom feeders in tropical and subtropical waters.
The Heterodontiforms appear in the fossil record in the Early Jurassic, well before any of the other Galeomorphii, a group which includes all modern sharks except the dogfish and its relatives. However, they have never been common, and it is likely their origin lies even further back.
|This section may be too technical for most readers to understand. (January 2009)|
The Bullhead Sharks are morphologically rather distinctive. The mouth is located entirely anterior to the orbits. Labial cartilages are found in the most anterior part of the mouth. Nasoral grooves are present, connecting the external nares to the mouth. The nasal capsules are "trumpet-shaped" & well-separated from orbits. Circumnarial skin folds present; but the rostral process of neurocranium (braincase) absent, although a precerebral fossa is present. Finally, the braincase bears a supraorbital crest.
The eyes lack a nictitating membrane. A spiracle is present, but small. The dorsal ends of branchial arches 4 and 5 are attached, but not fused into a "pickaxe" as in lamniform sharks. Heterodontiforms have 2 dorsal fins, with fin spines, as well as an anal fin. The dorsal and anal fin also contain basal cartilages, not just fin rays.
Bullhead Sharks have distinctive small spikes on the front of their dorsal fins. These are rumoured to be poisonous but no further scientific tests have been done to prove this rumor true or false.
There are nine living species of bullhead shark, with another potential undescribed species in Baja California:
- Heterodontus francisci (Girard, 1855) (Horn shark)
- Heterodontus galeatus (Günther, 1870) (Crested bullhead shark)
- Heterodontus japonicus (Maclay & W. J. Macleay], 1884) (Japanese bullhead shark)
- Heterodontus mexicanus (L. R. Taylor & Castro-Aguirre, 1972) (Mexican hornshark)
- Heterodontus omanensis (Z. H. Baldwin, 2005) (Oman bullhead shark)
- Heterodontus portusjacksoni (F. A. A. Meyer, 1793) (Port Jackson shark)
- Heterodontus quoyi (Fréminville, 1840) (Galapagos bullhead shark)
- Heterodontus ramalheira (J. L. B. Smith, 1949) (Whitespotted bullhead shark)
- Heterodontus zebra (J. E. Gray, 1831) (Zebra bullhead shark)
- Heterodontus sp. X (Jose I. Castro) (Cryptic Horn Shark)
- Sepkoski, Jack (2002). "A compendium of fossil marine animal genera (Chondrichthyes entry)". Bulletins of American Paleontology 364: p.560. Retrieved 2008-01-09.
- . N.p.. Web. 10 Jun 2013. <http://paleodb.org/cgi-bin/bridge.pl?a=checkTaxonInfo&taxon_no=252518&is_real_user=1>.
- Compagno, Leonard (2002) Sharks of the World: Bullhead, mackerel and carpet sharks Volume 2, FAO Species Catalogue, Rome. ISBN 92-5-104543-7.
- "Heterodontus". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 4 May 2006.
- Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2011). Species of Heterodontus in FishBase. February 2011 version.