Shorefishes of the Greater Caribbean online information system

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Species: Mollisquama mississippiensis, American Pocket Shark, American Pocketshark

All Families:   All Genera:   All Species:

large, blunt head; short conical snout
body tapering
D1 just before pelvics
D1 ~D2
C asymmetric
lips thick, fringed
large gland opens above pectoral base

Mollisquama mississippiensis Grace, Doosey, Denton, Naylor, Bart & Maisey, 2019

American Pocket Shark

Body cylindrical, compressed at rear, tapering to a slender tail base; head large, wide, deeper than body; snout short, bulbous, blunt, conical; eyes elliptical, length 3X height; no nictitating eyelids; large spiracle behind eye; mouth small, opens under snout, lips thick, fringed; teeth in upper and lower jaws different, upper - narrow, needle-like, small, lower - compressed, broader, triangular, larger than upper, with 1 point; 5 medium sized gill slits, last over pectoral base; a large pocket gland opens in a conspicuous slit just above pectoral base; both dorsal fins small, low, rounded, narrow, 1st ~equal to 2nd but 2nd with longer base, without spines; origin of 1st dorsal well behind pectoral, base ends over pelvic origin; origin of second near pelvic rear base; pectorals small, with broadly rounded tips; pelvic fins small, triangular; no anal fin; no pits on upper tail base; keel on tail base present or absent; tail fin asymmetrical, lower lobe 60% length of top lobe, both lobes broad & rounded, a subterminal notch under tip of top lobe; all fins with short filaments along their rear edges.

Uniform dark brown; exit of pocket-gland black; hairs on fin edges pale.

Reaches ~40 cm


Depth range 330 - 580 m.

Distribution: northern Gulf of Mexico

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  • Marine
  • Marine Only
  • Offshore
  • Offshore Only
Water Column Position
  • Mid Water
  • Water column only
  • Water column
FishBase Habitat
  • Bathypelagic
  • Pelagic
Feeding Group
  • Carnivore
  • Data
  • Data
  • Bony fishes
  • Octopus/squid/cuttlefish
Egg Type
  • Data
  • Live birth
Global Endemism
  • All species
  • Greater Caribbean endemic
  • West Atlantic Endemic
Regional Endemism
  • GC endemic
  • Gulf of Mexico endemic
  • All species
  • Resident
Climate Zone
  • Subtropical (23-35N, Florida / Carolinas / Bermuda)
IUCN Red List
  • Data deficient
  • Listed
  • Not listed
Length Max
  • 40
Depth Range Min
  • 330
Depth Range Max
  • 580