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Isistius brasiliensis (Quoy & Gaimard, 1824)

Cookie cutter shark
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Native range | All suitable habitat | Point map | Year 2050
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Isistius brasiliensis   AquaMaps   Data sources: GBIF OBIS
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Image of Isistius brasiliensis (Cookie cutter shark)
Isistius brasiliensis
Female picture by Harris, M.

Classification / Names Common names | Synonyms | Catalog of Fishes(genus, species) | ITIS | CoL | WoRMS | Cloffa

Elasmobranchii (sharks and rays) > Squaliformes (Sleeper and dogfish sharks) > Dalatiidae (Sleeper sharks)
Etymology: Isistius: Etymology not explained, probably iso-, from isos (Gr.), equal; istius, from histion (Gr.), sail (i.e., dorsal fin), referring to its two similarly shaped and sized (and posterior) dorsal fins, a character Gill used to diagnose genus. José I. Castro, The Sharks of North America (Oxford University Press, 2011), suggests name may allude to the Egyptian goddess Isis, represented in statuary with her head veiled, or to the dark collar encircling throat of I. brasiliensis, “which could also suggest a veil over the head” (p. 145). This interpretation is rejected by the fact that Gill often used “istius” in the names of several genera distinguished (at least in part) by their dorsal fins (Acanthistius, Brachyistius, Caristius, Dichistius, Goniistius, Iniistius, Micromesistius, Nematistius). (See ETYFish);  brasiliensis: -ensis, Latin suffix denoting place: off the coast of Brazil, type locality. (See ETYFish).
More on authors: Quoy & Gaimard.

Environment: milieu / climate zone / depth range / distribution range Ecology

Marine; bathypelagic; oceanodromous (Ref. 51243); depth range 0 - 3700 m (Ref. 55584), usually 0 - 1000 m (Ref. 89423). Deep-water; 35°N - 47°S, 180°W - 180°E

Distribution Countries | FAO areas | Ecosystems | Occurrences | Point map | Introductions | Faunafri

Western Atlantic: Bahamas and southern Brazil. Eastern Atlantic: Cape Verde, Guinea to Sierra Leone, southern Angola and South Africa, including Ascension Island. Indo-Pacific: Mauritius to New Guinea, Lord Howe Island, and New Zealand (Ref. 26346), north to Japan and east to the Hawaiian Islands. Eastern Pacific: Easter Island (Ref. 9068) and the Galapagos.

Length at first maturity / Size / Weight / Age

Maturity: Lm 41.0, range 38 - 44 cm
Max length : 42.0 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 48844); 56.0 cm TL (female)

Short description Identification keys | Morphology | Morphometrics

Dorsal spines (total): 0; Anal spines: 0; Vertebrae: 81 - 89. The cookiecutter shark Isistius brasiliensis is distinctive for the prominent dark collar marking around its throat, large nearly symmetrical caudal fin with a long ventral lobe over 2/3 length of dorsal caudal margin, and moderately large lower teeth in 25-32 rows. Eyes set anterior of head but sufficiently far back to lack an extensive anterior binocular field. Pectoral fins subquadrate; pelvic fins larger than dorsal fins (Ref.247). Tooth count: 30-37/25-31. Vertebral count: 81-89. Spiral valve count: 8-10 (Ref. 48844). Dark brown dorsally, paler ventrally except for blackish band across throat; tips of caudal lobe blackish (Ref. 6577). As with the other member of the genus Isistius , it has a characteristic small cigar-shaped body with two small close-set spineless dorsal fins far posterior on back, no anal fin, huge, triangular-cusped teeth without blades, short, bulbous snout and a unique suctorial lips (Ref. 247).

Biology     Glossary (e.g. epibenthic)

Oceanic species (Ref. 247). Epi- to bathypelagic at 1-3500 m (Ref. 58302). Makes diurnal vertical migrations from below 1,000 m in the day to or near the surface at night (Ref. 6871, 58302). Travels long vertical distances in excess of 2,000 to 3,000 m on a diel cycle (Ref. 247). Feeds free-living deepwater prey such as large squid, gonostomatids, crustaceans but is also a facultative ectoparasite on larger pelagic animals such as wahoo, tuna, billfishes, and cetaceans (Ref. 247). Ovoviviparous (Ref. 205), with 6-12 young per litter (Ref. 48844). The cookiecutter shark has specialized suctorial lips and a strongly modified pharynx that allow it to attach to the sides of it prey (Ref. 247). It then drives its saw-like lower dentition into the skin and flesh of its victim, twists about to cut out a conical plug of flesh, then pull free with the plug cradled by its scoop-like lower jaw and held by the hook-like upper teeth (Ref. 247). Teeth are shed as a complete unit; the lower teeth are swallowed, perhaps to maintain sufficient calcium levels in its body (Ref. 247). Interconnection at the bases of individual tooth allows a whole row of teeth to move if one tooth is touched. This shark is reported to radiate light for as long as three hours after its death. Not dangerous to people because of its small size and habitat preferences (Ref. 247).

Life cycle and mating behavior Maturities | Reproduction | Spawnings | Egg(s) | Fecundities | Larvae

Presumably ovoviviparous; 6 or 7 large eggs have been found in ovaries (Ref. 247). Distinct pairing with embrace (Ref. 205). Viviparous, without a yolk sac placenta, 6-12 young per litter. Males mature at about 36 cm, with a maximum length of 42 cm; females mature at 39 cm, with a maximum length of 56 cm. Size at birth is unknown. (Ref. 48844).

Main reference Upload your references | References | Coordinator : Compagno, Leonard J.V. | Collaborators

Compagno, L.J.V., 1984. FAO Species Catalogue. Vol. 4. Sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Part 1 - Hexanchiformes to Lamniformes. FAO Fish. Synop. 125(4/1):1-249. Rome, FAO. (Ref. 247)

IUCN Red List Status (Ref. 130435)

  Least Concern (LC) ; Date assessed: 04 July 2017


Not Evaluated

CMS (Ref. 116361)

Not Evaluated

Threat to humans

  Harmless (Ref. 247)

Human uses

Fisheries: minor commercial
FAO - Publication: search | FishSource |

More information

Trophic ecology
Food items
Diet compositions
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Food rations
Population dynamics
Max. ages / sizes
Length-weight rel.
Length-length rel.
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Egg developments
Larval dynamics
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BRUVS - Videos
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Oxygen consumptions
Swimming type
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Visual pigment(s)
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Diseases / Parasites
Toxicities (LC50s)
Human related
Aquaculture systems
Aquaculture profiles
Ciguatera cases
Stamps, coins, misc.


Special reports

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Internet sources

AFORO (otoliths) | Aquatic Commons | BHL | Cloffa | BOLDSystems | Websites from users | Check FishWatcher | CISTI | Catalog of Fishes: genus, species | DiscoverLife | ECOTOX | FAO - Publication: search | Faunafri | Fishipedia | Fishtrace | GenBank: genome, nucleotide | GloBI | Google Books | Google Scholar | Google | IGFA World Record | MitoFish | National databases | Otolith Atlas of Taiwan Fishes | PubMed | Reef Life Survey | Socotra Atlas | Tree of Life | Wikipedia: Go, Search | World Records Freshwater Fishing | Zoological Record

Estimates based on models

Preferred temperature (Ref. 123201): 3.1 - 9.7, mean 4.8 °C (based on 2327 cells).
Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82804):  PD50 = 0.7520   [Uniqueness, from 0.5 = low to 2.0 = high].
Bayesian length-weight: a=0.00372 (0.00141 - 0.00976), b=3.12 (2.89 - 3.35), in cm total length, based on LWR estimates for this (Sub)family-body shape (Ref. 93245).
Trophic level (Ref. 69278):  4.3   ±0.3 se; based on diet studies.
Resilience (Ref. 120179):  Very Low, minimum population doubling time more than 14 years (Fec = 6).
Fishing Vulnerability (Ref. 59153):  Moderate vulnerability (42 of 100).
Price category (Ref. 80766):   Unknown.