A shark was caught off the coast of Australia this week, and as far as sharks go, it’s one of the scariest out there if you’re going by smile alone.
Called the frilled shark, the species dates back 80 million years and is sometimes likened to a living fossil. It’s a shark, but it looks like it’s only part way through its evolution to becoming a shark. It has a body like an eel that can grow up to six feet in length and sports three fins on its back and six pairs of gills. It’s the frilly-looking gills that give the shark its name.
But most interesting is its mouth. The frilled shark has 300 needle-shaped teeth ordered in 25 rows. Scientists think the shark moves to attack its prey like a snake by bending its body before lurching forward. It has a long jaw with which it can swallow its prey whole. The rows of teeth make it nearly impossible for that prey to escape. Some scientists suspect that the frilled shark also uses its body shape to slither along in crevices and feed on cephalopods, bony fishes, and other sharks. Because it has a large liver packed with low-density oils and hydrocarbons, the frilled shark its actually neutrally buoyant at depth.
The particular shark that was caught was just an unlucky one. Frilled sharks usually live at depths around 4,000 to 5,000 feet. This one was swimming in shallower waters just above 3,000 feet, which is where a fisherman’s net happened to be trawling. It’s possible it was nearing the end of its life anyways; frilled sharks typically swim closer to the surface when they are sick. This one died not too long after it was caught.
Past reports of even larger frilled sharks being caught — in 1880 a 25-foot long frilled shark was captured — suggest there might be bigger ones out there, lurking, being mistaken for sea serpents in the meantime. That will be for some brave deep sea explorers to find out.
IMAGE: Setfia/Discovery News