Pity the poor, misunderstood frilled shark. A member of the species (Chlamydoselachus anguineus) was caught by an Australian fisherman while trawling for sea perch last week and the news is buzzing about the beleaguered, bizarre-looking thing: “It looks like something out of Alien,” “freaky,” “horrific looking.”
This animal has evolved to thrive in the frigid depths of the ocean 5,000 feet below. It is a beautifully designed creature – a fossil species dating back some 80,000,000 years. Should it look like a kitten? Maybe its eel-like body, 300 frond-like needle sharp teeth and six sets of frilly gills do make for an unusual visage, but such are the splendors of diversity. Why must we bully the underdogs?
"It was really prehistoric looking, freaky really," said David Guillot, the fisherman who caught the shark while trawling for fish at 3,600 feet, reports CNN. "The head on it was like something out of a horror movie. It was quite horrific looking. ... It was quite scary actually,""I've been fishing 30 years and never saw anything like it. So I brought it in," he said. "Honestly we thought we had caught a brand new species, maybe discovered something wild."
A new species – couldn’t be further from that. But frilled sharks are rare. The IUCN List of Threatened Species lists the frilled shark as “near threatened,” describing it as a generally rare to uncommon deepwater species, “likely to have very little resilience to depletion as a result of even non-targeted exploitation.”
Guillot said that the frilled shark was still alive when he got it to the surface. It did not survive. Alas.
The shark was offered to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia, but since they already had one, they declined the offer. Reports note that the shark was sold to another party.