Sharks play an essential rol in the health of our oceans

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Rare sharks of the deep

Rare sharks of the deep

by Dorien Schröder, Dutch Shark Society

 

There are over 470 species of sharks and most of them are rarely seen, even by marine biologists. But you should definitely know about these beauties!

Goblin shark

The goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni) was first described in 1898, although Japanese fishermen already knew it as tengu-zame, which is a mythical goblin with a long nose. The reason we don’t spot this shark very often is that it lives at a depth of over 1,000 meters. It is easily recognizable by the elongated snout, which is full of ampullae of Lorenzini. These electroreceptors help the shark catch prey in its dark environment. The shark also lacks pigmentation, as it doesn’t need it this in the deep. This makes the skin appear translucent.

goblin-shark-1
Status: this species is assessed as Least Concern because although apparently rare, it is widespread in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans and is only infrequently taken in deepwater fisheries.

Bahamas sawshark

The Bahamas sawshark (Pristiophorus schroederi, I like that name!) also lives in the deep, at 400-1,000 meters. It has a flattened snout full of serrated teeth that it uses to dig up its prey, as well as barbels to help find it. Only three specimens have ever been found.

002842-450-sawshark
Status: given the lack of available information on this species it cannot be assessed beyond Data Deficient at this time. More information is sought regarding the potential of deepwater fisheries within its range, which, given its endemism and possible narrow distribution, could lead to this species as being assessed as Near Threatened or higher in the future.

Frilled shark, (Chlamydoselachus anguineus)

This shark can be found at depths around 1,500 meters, although in Japan they sometimes come up to 50 meters. It is a very prehistoric looking shark that hasn’t changed in 500 million years. It was first described in 1884, but was only seen alive for the first time in 2004. It has 300 pointy teeth, in 25 rows.

Frilled-shark-showing-specially-adapted-teeth
Status: although little is known of its life history, this deepwater species is likely to have very little resilience to depletion as a result of even non-targeted exploitation. It is classified as Near Threatened due to concern that it may meet the Vulnerable criteria

Megamouth shark, Megachasma pelagios

Since the megamouth shark has been discovered in 1976, it has only been seen alive three times. This shark can grow up to 5.5 meters long and feeds on plankton and krill. They usually live a a few hundred meters depth, but come closer to the surface to filter feed. Last May, there were reports that fishers have caught a 3,9 meter long megamouth shark, also incredibly rare, near Shizuoka, Japan.
This is only the 55th confirmed megamouth shark sighting since the first one was accidentally caught by a U.S. Navy research vessel off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii, in 1976. The colouration and catch records of the megamouth shark are suggestive of epipelagic rather than deepwater habitat, as is the composition of its liver oil.

 

Megamouth-shark

Status: Data Deficient, at the time of assessment by IUCN in 2005 it was known from less than 20 specimens, though its distribution is thought to be circumtropical and wide ranging. The colouration and catch records of the megamouth shark are suggestive of epipelagic rather than deepwater habitat, as is the composition of its liver oil.

Angular roughshark ( Oxynotus centrina)

First described in 1758, this shark lives at depths of 100-660 meters. It is only 25 centimeter at birth and most mature individuals are around 1 meter long. The shark has a very compressed body, which makes it look a bit triangular.

 

angular_rough_shark

Status: Based on the species unproductive life history characteristics and documented declines in the Mediterranean as well as inferred declines in the Northeast Atlantic, and continuing fishing pressure through much of its range, the species is assessed as Vulnerable globally, on the basis of suspected and documented past and future declines.

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