Isistius brasiliensisCigar shark

Geographic Range

Pelagic: The cookie-cutter shark is found in seas as far north as Japan and south to Southern Australia. It is a deep-water fish, and wide-ranging, often found near islands.


Cookie-cutter sharks are wide-ranging creatures, found in tropical oceanic climates all across the world. They tend to be found closer to islands, but they have been caught in open sea, as well.

Physical Description

The cookie-cutter shark is a typical member of the dogfish order; it has no anal fin, a thin, cigar shaped body, and short snout. It has suctorial lips, small upper teeth, and large, triangular cusped lower teeth in 25 to 32 rows. Coloration is medium grey to grey-brown, with a dark collar marking its throat. Females are larger than males, reaching perhaps 20 inches at full size. (Compagno 1984)


Reproduction of the cookie-cutter shark is accomplished through internal fertilization. The male has instead two 'claspers' (pterygopodes), located on his underside in the rear. Fertilization is accomplished by his insertion of one of his claspers into the female's cloaca. Like other small sharks, this shark is oviparous, and the female coats her eggs in a horny casing before attaching them to rocks and seaweed. Hatching can take place after 12 to 22 months. When the young emerge, they are fully developed and capable of hunting for themselves. Males mature at approximately 14 inches and grow to a size of 16 inches, while females mature at 16 inches and reach up to 20 inches (Stoakely 1997).


Cookie-cutter sharks are essentially a solitary species, coming together only to mate. They follow a diel cycle of movement, coming closer to the surface at night, when they are more likely to be caught in fishing nets. Even during the night, however, they stay at least 300 feet below the surface. It is unknown exactly how deep they swim during the day, but their depth is thought to exceed two miles. They are often found near islands, but it is uncertain whether this is because of a greater concentration of prey or in order to mate. The oily liver of this species (the super-equivalent to a swim bladder in bony fishes) is larger than that of most similar sharks, and it is thought to allow them to swim to greater depths. Their skeleton, though still cartilaginous, is calcified, perhaps to aid in their deep water forays for food. This species is known to attack submarines, evidently mistaking them for prey. (Compagno 1984)

Food Habits

Like many sharks, the cookie-cutter shark is a carnivore. It attaches itself to its prey with its strong sucking mouth, and then twists about, using its sharp lower teeth to slice out a plug of flesh, which can sometimes be twice as deep as its diameter. It then uses its hook-like upper teeth to hold the plug, while the lower teeth scoop the plug out. Detaching, it swims away to enjoy its meal. It preys on deep water organisms, including crustaceans, squid, large bony fishes, cetaceans, and even large sharks. It is bioluminescent, able to emit a greenish light from its belly. It may use this light to attract the attention of potential victims (Compagno 1984, Roesch 1997).

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

They have a potential negative impact on fisheries, as they prey on commercially important fish, but damage is slight. The attacks on submarines are considered at most a nuisance. Because of its small size, and deep water habitat, this species is of little or no danger to swimmers and divers.

Conservation Status

Other Comments

The cookie-cutter shark often swallows and digests its teeth, which is thought to aid in calcification of the skeleton. Shark copulation is still very much a mystery and has never been observed in the wild (Compagno 1984, Stoakely 1997)


James Miller (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.


Atlantic Ocean

the body of water between Africa, Europe, the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), and the western hemisphere. It is the second largest ocean in the world after the Pacific Ocean.

World Map

Pacific Ocean

body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.

World Map


Referring to an animal that lives on or near the bottom of a body of water. Also an aquatic biome consisting of the ocean bottom below the pelagic and coastal zones. Bottom habitats in the very deepest oceans (below 9000 m) are sometimes referred to as the abyssal zone. see also oceanic vent.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


structure produced by the calcium carbonate skeletons of coral polyps (Class Anthozoa). Coral reefs are found in warm, shallow oceans with low nutrient availability. They form the basis for rich communities of other invertebrates, plants, fish, and protists. The polyps live only on the reef surface. Because they depend on symbiotic photosynthetic algae, zooxanthellae, they cannot live where light does not penetrate.


Compagno, L.J.V. 1984. FAO Species Catalogue- Sharks of the World part 1. Rome.

Roesch, B.S. 1997.

Stoakely, A. 1997.