Cephaloscyllium ventriosum

Habitat: Swell sharks are typically found in caves and crevices during the day.

Average adult size: Adults can grow to be three feet long.

Natural history: The swell shark's species name, ventriosum, means large belly. The swell shark can take in water and swell up like a basketball. A predator would be hard pressed to pull one from its protective crevice. The swell shark is a bottom dweller, camouflaged with dark brown patches. Hiding unnoticed among the rocks is an adaptation to life in the kelp forest, which helps them avoid predators and capture prey. They are active at night, feeding on small reef fishes. Swell sharks are remarkable for producing what is called a "mermaid's purse." This is an egg case with a baby shark inside. It is shaped like a piece of kelp that lays on the bottom for eight to 10 months. The baby shark is on its own to pry its way free of the egg case with two rows of small spines on their back. The young are about 5 inches long at birth.

Range: From Monterey, California, south to Acapulco, Mexico.

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