There is a current need to develop novel non-toxic antifouling materials. The mechanisms utilized by marine organisms to prevent fouling of external surfaces are of interest in this regard. Biomimicry of these mechanisms and the ability to transfer the antifouling characteristics of these surfaces to artificial surfaces are a highly attractive prospect to those developing antifouling technologies. In order to achieve this, the mechanisms responsible for any antifouling ability must be elucidated from the study of the natural organism and the critical surface parameters responsible for fouling reduction. Dermal denticles of members of the shark family have been speculated to possess some natural, as yet unidentified antifouling mechanism related to the physical presence of denticles. In this study, the dermal denticles of one particular member of the slow-swimming sharks, Scyliorhinus canicula were characterized and it was found that a significant natural variation in denticle dimensions exists in this species. The degree of denticle surface contamination was quantified on denticles at various locations and it was determined that the degree of contamination of the dorsal surface of denticles varies with the position on the shark body. In addition, we successfully produced synthetic sharkskin samples using the real skin as a template. Testing of the produced synthetic skin in field conditions resulted in significant differences in material attachment on surfaces exhibiting denticles of different dimensions. © 2011 IOP Publishing Ltd.