Fishermen catch Frill Shark “living fossil” in Australia

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The frilled shark (Chlamydoselachus anguineus) gains its name from its six pairs of frill like gills. It is one of two remaining species of this ancient family which dates back 80 million years.

Fishermen catch Frill Shark “living fossil” in Australia
Deeply unpleasant to look at, this frilled shark was found in Victorian waters
 near Lakes Entrance [Credit: SEFTIA]

It has a wide but patchy distribution in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans on the outer and upper continental slope, generally near the bottom, though there is evidence of substantial upward movements. It has been caught as deep as 1,570m but is uncommon below 1,200m.

Fishermen catch Frill Shark “living fossil” in Australia
The frilled shark is one of two remaining species of an ancient aquatic family 
which dates back 80 million years [Credit: SEFTIA]

Exhibiting several primitive features, the frilled shark is often termed a “living fossil”. It reaches a length of 2.0m and has a dark brown, eel-like body with the dorsal, pelvic, and anal fins placed far back. Its common name comes from the frilly or fringed appearance of its six pairs of gill slits.

Seldom observed, the frilled shark may capture prey by bending its body and lunging forward like a snake. The long, extremely flexible jaws enable it to swallow prey whole, while its 300 needle-shaped teeth aligned in 25 rows make it difficult for the prey to escape. Some literature suggests its body shape allows it to feed along crevices on cephalopods, bony fishes and other sharks. A large liver packed with low-density oils and hydrocarbons allows it to maintain neutral buoyancy at depth.

This individual was captured by a trawl vessel and was near maximum length. It was offered to CSIRO but they already hold specimens.

Source: South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association [January 22, 2015]

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