American Pocket Shark

The American pocket shark is a small deepwater shark belonging to the Dalatiidae family. This species was first described in 2015 based on a juvenile male specimen caught in 2010 by a group of scientists from Tulane University.

The internal pocket near their pectoral fins is where the species gets its name.

American Pocket Shark Scientific Classification

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Chondrichthyes
Order Squaliformes
Family Dalatiidae
Genus Mollisquama
Scientific Name Mollisquama mississippiensis


These small sharks measure around 5.5 inches. They have light gray bodies, while their fins are of darker color. Moreover, the area surrounding their gills appears cream-colored.

They have a bulbous head, similar to that of a whale. There is the presence of a couple of pocket-looking glands. They even have photophores or light-producing organs on their body.

Their upper jaw consists of narrow and conical teeth, while the tooth in their lower jaw is broad and resembles a blade. The teeth in both jaws decrease in size toward the corners of their mouth.

Where do they live

The holotype specimen, caught in 2010, was captured in the northern Gulf of Mexico waters at depths of 1082-1902 feet.



The general diet of these sharks consists of tunas, squids, billfishes, and some marine mammals. These pocket sharks hunt by latching onto their prey with the help of sharp teeth.


The American pocket sharks are viviparous (they give birth to live young progeny). The developing sharks get nourished by sustaining the yolk in the yolk sac inside the female.


A bioluminescent fluid is produced by the pocket gland of the American pocket shark. This secretion is activated by a particular movement of the pectoral fin. This behavior is an adaptation by these sharks, and they use it for hunting or as a close-range defensive mechanism to ward off predators.

Interactions with humans

The small size of these sharks renders them harmless.

The absence of proper knowledge about their distribution and habitat has resulted in the IUCN classifying these sharks as ‘Least Concern’.

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