Andrew Smith, a Scottish zoologist, originally described this species in 1839 for his work, Illustrations of the Zoology of South Africa. He named their megalopterus for the Greek words “mega” meaning large and ptero meaning “wing” in reference to their large fins.
They are a pretty solid shark, reaching about 1.7 m (5.6 ft) in length and 40 kg (88 lb) in weight, with females being larger than males. They are a gray/bronze color, with a white belly. While the young are pretty plain-looking, the adults have a considerable amount of black spots peppering the top of their body, used in one of its common name as a defining characteristic. They have a blunt snout and furrows (flaps) around its teeny mouth (but it doesn’t reach the mouth). Their fins are pretty large and rounded, with pectoral (side) fins being sickle-shaped in adults. Its eyes do have nictitating membrane, and its teeth are small and sharp (giving way to another common name).
They are an active night shark, usually patrolling the sediment for crustaceans (crabs, slipper and spiny lobsters), teleost (bony) fish and cephalopods (specifically Octopus vulgaris). They have been observed to feed on the chokka squid (Loligo reynaudii) during their spawning event. Their diet can also include shark and ray eggs, but very rarely. Off South Africa, their most important food resource is a tiny crab (Plagusia chabrus).
As in this shark-eat-shark world, broadnose sevengill sharks (Notorynchus cepedianus) do feed on spotted gullies.
They are solitary animals, however there have been documented observations of gatherings during the summer time. Why? Nobody really knows for certain, except that it may be for reproduction. Speaking of reproduction, they are aplacental viviparous. Litter sizes vary from 6-12 pups in late May to August. They have two- to three-year cycles (gestation periods of around 20 months- ouch!).
As in many sharks, they are a slow growing animal with long reproductive cycles. They are estimated to live up to at least 25 years. This, coupled with them being caught during commercial bottom longlines in their small range, leads them to be vulnerable to overfishing. That most of these sharks being caught are immature is cause for more concern amongst scientists studying them.That’s why the IUCN has listed them as Near Threatened.