E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia

Hexanchus griseus (Bonnaterre, 1788)
Sixgill Shark
Family: Chimaeridae

© Neil McDaniel  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #15953)

Source: Distribution of Hexanchus griseus as compiled by Aquamaps
E-Fauna's interactive maps for fish are not yet available.


The Bluntnose Sixgill Shark is a widely, but patchily, distributed large shark species that is found in the Pacific, Atlantic (including the Mediterranean Sea) and Indian Oceans where it is found at depths of 0 to 2000 m (Cook and Compagno 2005). It is found in deep, cool waters along the continental slopes, and in British Columbia is found in the Strait of Georgia and in deeper inlets of the adjoining mainland and the west coast of Vancouver Island (Dunbrack and Zielinski 2003).

This is a large (to 4.8m), heavy-bodied shark that is easily distinguished from other shark species by the presence of six gills (instead of the typical five gills of other shark species) and because it has only one dorsal fin (instead of the two dorsal fins typical of other species) (COSEWIC 2007). The sixgill shark is a predatory species that will feed on a variety of animals, from skates and rays to squid, crabs and sea cucumbers. No aggressive behaviour towards human has been reported.

Sixgill sharks have vertical diurnal migration, remaining at depths during the day and moving to the surface at night, and are reportedly light sensitive. However, researchers in BC have observed individuals of this species (ranging from 1.35–3.54 m in length) in high light conditions in the afternoon in shallow water (20 - 40 m), from June through to October (Dunbrack and Zielinski 2003).

COSEWIC (2007) lists this species as special concern in Canada, with commercial fisheries listed as a threat.

Read the COSEWIC status report.

Read the National Management Plan for this species.

Read a Vancouver Sun article on this species in BC.

View a video.

Report shark sightings to 1 877 50-SHARK (1-877-507-4275).

Species Information

Dorsal spines (total): 0; Anal spines: 0. A heavily-bodied, broad-headed sixgill shark, mouth ventral with 6 rows of lower, bladelike, comb-shaped teeth on each side. Snout broadly rounded, body fusiform. Anal fin smaller than dorsal fin. Brown or grey above, paler below, with a light stripe along side Fins with white edges. Live specimens with fluorescent green eyes. Six gill slits are very long.

Source: FishBase. FishBase. Compagno, L.J.V. 1984 . (Ref. 247)


Species Biology

Depth range reported at 0m-2000m. A deepwater species of the outer continental and insular shelves and upper slopes. Near bottom, occasionally pelagic, adults usually below 91 m. Juveniles may be found close inshore. Found on the bottom by day, moving to the surface at night to feed, and where it may take longlines set for other species. Depth distribution related to growth and temperature, with juveniles having most shallow records and from colder, poleward regions. Feeds on a wide range of marine organisms, including other sharks, rays, chimaeras, bony fish, squids, crabs, shrimps, carrion, and even seals. Ovoviviparous, with 22 to 108 pups in a litter. Environment: bathydemersal; oceanodromous; marine; depth range 1 - 2500 m, usually 180 - 1100 m. Climate: subtropical; 65°N - 48°S, 180°W - 180°E

Source: FishBase. FishBase. Compagno, L.J.V. 1984 . (Ref. 247)



Circumglobal: In tropical and temperate waters. Western Atlantic: North Carolina to Florida (USA) and northern Gulf of Mexico to northern Argentina. Eastern Atlantic: Iceland and Norway to Namibia, including the Mediterranean. Indian Ocean: Madagascar, Mozambique, and South Africa. Western Pacific: eastern Japan to New Zealand and Hawaii. Eastern Pacific: Aleutian Islands, Alaska to Baja California, Mexico; also Chile. Highly migratory species.

Source: FishBase. FishBase. Compagno, L.J.V. 1984 . (Ref. 247)

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
NativeSNRNo StatusSC (Apr 2007)
BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Additional Range and Status Information Links

Additional Photo Sources

Species References

Cook, S.F. & Compagno, L. J.V. 2005.. Hexanchus griseus. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. Downloaded on 27 October 2010.

COSEWIC 2007. COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the bluntnose sixgill shark Hexanchus griseus in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, Ottawa. Available online.

Dunbrack, Robert and Robert Zielinski. 2003. Seasonal and diurnal activity of sixgill sharks (Hexanchus griseus) on a shallow water reef in the Strait of Georgia, British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Zoology 81: 1107–1111.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 2012. Management Plan for the Bluntnose Sixgill Shark (Hexanchus griseus) and Tope Shark (Galeorhinus galeus) in Canada. Species at Risk Act Management Plan Series. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa. Available online.

General References

Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2019. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [efauna.bc.ca]. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed: 2020-08-03 10:58:37 AM]
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