If you thought the frilled shark was cool…

9 02 2007

A few weeks ago a rare Frilled Shark popped up in shallow waters giving some aquarists a rare glimpse of a creature rarely seen alive, and now apparently the act has been repeated by a Goblin Shark (Mitsukurina owstoni, the lone representative of a shark Family reaching at least as far back as 125 million years ago. In fact, in 1909 the Goblin Shark was thought to be a living member of the genus Scapanorhynchus, but physical similarities aside it was later correctly assigned to its own genus. Anyway, here’s some video of the shark alive in the aquarium where it was held, as well as, erm… what’s left of it now

As the Japanese scientist mentions in the video, it’s curious that two deep-water species showed up in shallow water habitats within such a short amount of time. Perhaps it’s coincidence, but if I were them I’d be checking with the fishermen and visiting the fish markets every morning to see if there has been a surge in deep-sea animals turning up in the shallows as of late. Like I said, it could very well be coincidence, but perhaps there’s something happening in deep-sea ecology that we should know about.

I also find it curious that the IUCN listed Goblin Sharks under “Least Concern,” primarily because even though the sharks appear to be rare they are wide-ranging. As far as I know, population studies on sharks are severely lacking, especially for deepwater varieties, so even if the species is overall widespread I don’t think anyone knows how many there are, how often they come into contact and mate, etc. Just because an animal has a wide geographic range doesn’t mean that there’s actually many of them; tigers range widely and require a lot of space but they are severely endangered throughout their range. I can understand not listing these sharks as under critical threat, but I would have at least expected the IUCN to say we should be careful about how many of these animals are taken as bycatch.

Speaking of sharks in captivity, here’s some footage someone got of a juvenile Great White Shark kept in the Monterey Aquarium some time ago.

They just released a juvenile not too long ago, but the one in the video preceded the more recent animal, surviving 198 days in captivity before being released. Great White Sharks are notoriously hard to keep (as are most pelagic fish) and as you can see in the video the shark had its nose worn down to a sore nub after bumping/brushing against its tank. Other than the box-office keeping great whites drives, the aquarium said that their husbandry staff were learning quite a lot about the juvenile predator, although a search of PubMed reveals no papers published about whatever was learned from the sharks time in captivity from September 2004 to March 2005. Hopefully I’m wrong and I have somehow missed the papers, but it would be an absolute shame if no research was done when an aquarium has a captive white shark to study.




One response

28 02 2007

[…] fish before scientists can. Indeed, the past month has produced headlines featuring colossal squid, goblin and frilled sharks, and a slew of new critters from Antarctic seas, so it’s definitely been […]

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