Puffadder shyshark

Haploblepharus edwardsii

Type: Fish - Shark Litter size: 2 to 4 Other common names: Happy Eddie Life span: +- 20 years Diet description: Small bony fishes, crustaceans, cephalopods and polychaetes Max length: 0.6 metres Habitat and range: Demersal species preferring rocky reefs, kelp forests and sandy habitats. Have been found up to 288-metres deep on the continental shelf, but mostly occur between 30 and 60 metres. This species is endemic to South Africa in the Southeast Atlantic and Southwest Indian Oceans. Relative size: Image IUCN status: Endangered (EN) - Decreasing population Endangered (EN)
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Photo by Mac Stone | © Save Our Seas Foundation
Photo by Mac Stone | © Save Our Seas Foundation


Slender body, mostly golden brown in colour with small white spots, and reddish-brown or orange saddles. White underside. Flattened head with ‘cat-like’ eyes and a narrow, rounded snout.

Special behaviour

When threatened, the puffadder shyshark curves its body into a circle, or doughnut shape, using its tail to cover its eyes. Not only does this protect the most delicate sensory organs, but it also makes the shark harder to eat. Puffadder shysharks also like company, and it is not unusual to see several of them hiding out together in a gap between the rocks.


Puffadder shysharks lay eggs, meaning they are oviparous. The female will typically lay her eggs in pairs. The egg cases are very small, at around 3.5 to 5 cm long.

Habitat and geographical range

Puffadder shysharks can be found on rocky reefs, sandy substrates and in kelp forests. They are endemic to South Africa, occurring only in the Southeast Atlantic and Southwest Indian Oceans from the Western to Eastern Cape. Their depth preference is thought to depend on their location; in the west, they are mostly found from 0 to 30 metres in kelp forests and on rocky reefs, but in the east, they seem to prefer deeper and sandy habitats.


Diet description

Puffadder shysharks have a varied diet, including crustaceans, cephalopods, polychaetes and small bony fishes.


Happy Eddies are regularly caught as bycatch in beach seine, gillnet, trawl, rock lobster and longline fisheries. They are also threatened by habitat loss and degradation, and may be sensitive to climate change as the hatching of their eggs is temperature dependent.

Relationship with humans

Due to its small size, the puffadder shyshark is no danger to humans. However, it is considered a ‘pest’ by recreational and rock lobster fishers, who believe the puffadder shyshark steals their bait. They are persecuted because of this.


There are no species-specific measures for the puffadder shyshark, but trawling efforts in South Africa have decreased substantially over the past two decades. Further research and monitoring is needed to help better protect the Happy Eddie.