Another sad creature, dredged up from the depths

24 01 2007

It’s always interesting to see what fishermen drag up from the deep sea from time to time, but often I am saddened by the video/photos of the rare animals. Adapted to life in the dark, deep sea, they do not survive long in shallow water (especially if brought up too fast), often on death’s doorstep while cameras roll. While it appears that fishermen did not hook the shark discovered in the shallows off Japan today, the elasmobranch proved to be one of the most bizarre and “ancient” of the sharks, the Frilled Shark (Chlamydoselachus anguineus), videotaped and photographed at the Awashima Marine Park. It was was brought to a shallow pool at the park after the staff were alerted by fisherman to the presence of the shark in the shallows nearby.

Here’s the video of the expiring creature.

This shark seems to show a more “primitive” condition than the more famous Great White, Tiger, and Bull sharks, having 6 gill slits (more derived sharks have 5) and an eel-like body with needle-like cusps on its teeth. Interestingly enough, it does give birth to live young, which is a more derived characteristic among sharks (some lay leathery eggs, the Mermaid’s Purses of beach scavenger hunts). What is perhaps most interesting is that until relatively recently it was thought this shark was extinct, being discovered off Japan around 1884. Currently it’s listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN, but shark population statistics are highly suspect, especially since we know so little about this animal to begin with and its appearances are relatively rare.

The video reminds me of the footage taken of a giant squid (Architeuthis dux) not long ago, the poor creature stuck to a lure and dying soon after the video was taken.

The video was hailed as the first of a “live” giant squid, but during a National Geographic special entitled Search for the Giant Squid (featuring teuthologist Clive Roper), there was footage of a live “giant” squid being hauled onto the deck of a fishing trawler, arms flailing about. There are squid other than Architeuthis that grow to large size and there’s no way for me to say what the species was, but regardless of this I was a bit saddened when I saw the video, especially when it was touted on internet news pages as the first video of a live giant squid. I was hoping for a streamlined animal, pulsing red and white and swimming freely in the depths, but what I got was a “catch of the day,” looking absolutely pitiful.


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