Bramble Shark

Bramble Shark

  • Scientific name: Echinorhinus brucus
  • Also know as: Spiny Shark, Spinous Shark, Spiky Shark
  • Size: Maximum size unknown. Possibly grows to 8 – 10ft in length.
  • UK minimum size: N/a
  • UK shore caught record: N/a
  • IUCN Status
    • Global: DD (Data Deficient)
    • Europe: EN (Endangered)
  • Distribution: Diffuse but widespread population throughout the world’s seas.
  • Feeds on: Smaller fish, squid and octopuses and may also take crabs and lobsters.
  • Description: Shark species with a rounded body and a broad head. The mouth is full of rows of small, sharp teeth. Five gill slits are present on each side of the body with rearmost gill slit much larger than the first. Two small dorsal fins are present, placed very close together and far back on the final third of the body. The skin is rough is also coated in sharp, pointed denticles which may be fused together. Colour is usually brownish to yellow but can also be greyish.

The bramble shark are a poorly understood species of deep-sea shark. Little is known about many aspects of this species, and even basic facts like the maximum size this species can grow to are not currently known to the scientific community.


Bramble Shark Distribution
Worldwide distribution of the bramble shark.

The bramble shark appears to be sparsely distributed throughout all of the world’s oceans and seas. They have been observed off the North and South American coasts, around the coast of Africa, in Indonesian and Asian waters and off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand. In European waters they have been sighted in the Mediterranean and off the northern coast of Europe as far north as Scandinavia. In British waters this species is thought to be present in the deep water of the Faroe-Shetland Channel to the north of Scotland and the Rockall Trough west of Ireland. However, bramble sharks have also been seen in the North Sea, and may also be present from time to time in the English Channel and the Irish Sea.

Behaviour, Appearance and Feeding

Bramble shark are thought to be solitary hunters, living in feeding on the seabed at depths of 500 to 1500 metres. Although the bramble shark is not a fast moving creature it has enough speed and agility to catch prey which consists of bony fish such as cod, haddock and hake plus crabs and lobsters. In terms of the reproduction bramble sharks are ovoviviparous (eggs hatch within the female making it look as if they give birth to live young), but little else is known reproductive cycle of this species.

Bramble Shark Denticles
Bramble shark denticles.

So little is known about this species that the maximum size they can reach is unconfirmed, but it thought to be in the region of 8 – 10ft and 600 – 800lbs. The most striking feature of this species is the sharp, conical thorn-like denticles which cover the body. Sometimes these denticles can join together to cover patches of the skin resulting in plates forming on the flanks or back of the shark. These sharp denticles give this species its common name due to their resemblance to brambles.

Commercial Value and Conservation Status

The bramble shark has little commercial value as its flesh is not eaten. While trawlers do not specifically target this species it may be inadvertently caught in nets and hauled on board, where it will be either discarded back into the sea or possibly retained to be made into fish meal. It is widely believed that numbers have declined significantly in recent years. The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) classes this species as Data Deficient on a global basis but Endangered with a declining population trend in European waters. As the bramble shark is likely to be a slow-growing and late-maturing species it will take a great deal of time for numbers to recover, even if commercial catches of this species stop completely.