For those of us that dwell above the surf, deep sea creatures can appear truly bizarre and other-worldly – some have even served as inspirations for creatures in science-fiction films! Which makes me think that perhaps no one has told Mr. Spielberg about the Frilled Shark (Chlamydoselachus anguineus). This rare shark’s serpentine body has been known to reach a maximum length of 6.4ft. Even with its snakey body, the creep-factor doesn’t stop there. It has a lizard-like face, behind which it has 6 frilly-edged gills. Unlike most fish, the first gill slit opens continuously across the throat. As if that wasn’t freaky enough, it has around 3 hundred trident shaped teeth arranged in 25 clustered rows. Check out the video and try to contain your heebie-jeebies.
In the deep sea there are many stresses on the organisms that live there. First, it is hard work to swim at depth with the pressure of all that water pushing against the body. Then there is the difficulty of finding food, due to sparseness and lack of light. How does this strange shark cope?
While it is difficult to know all of the habits and adaptations of deep sea creatures, scientists have made very helpful observations and are always learning more. By looking inside the body of the frilled shark, we know that special oils inside the liver help it to maintain neutral buoyancy at great depths. This allows them to hover and to use their back fins for propulsion and even possibly for striking, much like a snake. Frilled Sharks eat primarily squid, though they have been known to eat other types of deep sea fish and even not-so-deep-sea sharks. It seems to have a number of adaptations for dealing with hard to find food in the Deep. Based on the stomach contents, scientists have determined that these sharks will venture well above the bottom of the sea to find food. They also have an especially sensitive lateral line, allowing them to pick up on even the tiniest vibrations made by prey.
One of the most amazing aspects of this shark is it’s unbelievably long gestation period. If you ask your parents, you’ll find out that your own gestation period (which is the amount of time you spent growing inside your mother) was around 9 months. That’s three quarters of a year, which is a very long time to carry a growing person. It doesn’t seem so long though, when you compare that to the whopping 42 month gestation period of the Frilled Shark. That is 3.5 YEARS! It seems that things move a lot slower at great depths, with low temperatures and high pressure. Growing little sharks is no different!
Join us next week as we talk about another deep sea shark.
Edited by KC O’Shea
Photography Kelvin Aitken