Prehistoric shark discovered in waters of Portugal

A shark whose species dates back 80 million years was caught by an EU researching expedition earlier this summer. Researchers said that the shark lives at such great depths that humans rarely ever get a glimpse of it and that almost no one ever catches it.
By Leon Clarke | Nov 14, 2017
Researchers pulled a "living fossil" from the waters off Portugal's coast earlier this summer when they reeled in a "frilled shark" whose species dates back to the age of dinosaurs, the BBC reported Friday. The Portuguese Institute for the Sea and Atmosphere said that the species, which has a snake-like body and 300 broad, frilly teethhence its namehas appeared in fossils dating back 80 million years.

The researchers were trawling the waters for fish to gauge fish populations for wildlife conservation purposes. One of the fishermen caught the shark while it was swimming at 2,300 feet below sea level.

"Researchers from IPMA and the Centre for Maritime Sciences recorded the catching of a shark "with unusual features" by a commercial trawler, as part of an "initiative to minimize undesirable catches in European fisheries," stated a news release.

The frilled shark is known to inhabit deep waters of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. Sightings have occurred off the coasts of Norway, Scotland, Spain, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and the Canary Islands. Catching a specimen is almost unheard of, however, because it normally lives at great depths.

Ecologists said that the species' body has remained virtually unchanged for the past 80 million years, making it a living relic of the dinosaur age. But they said that they know about its biology, as they have seldom been able to observe one up close. But some posit that sailors in centuries past might have seen them and that the sharks' snake-like movements might have inspired the sailors to spin stories of sea serpents.

The shark's frilly teeth enable it to catch squid, fish, and other sharks, according to Margarida Castro, a professor at the University of Algarve.


Have something to say? Let us know in the comments section or send an email to the author. You can share ideas for stories by contacting us here.

Comments should take into account that readers may hold different opinions. With that in mind, please make sure comments are respectful, insightful, and remain focused on the article topic.