Frill Shark: Loch Ness or Living Fossil?
In 2007, a fisherman near Tokyo,Japan, told Awashiwa Marine Park officials that he'd just seen a very unusual eel-like creature with needle-sharp teeth. Staff at the park followed the fisherman, who directed them to the 5-foot-long oddity. They caught the creature, which was later identified as a frilled shark.
The frilled shark has been called everything from a "sea serpent" to a real-life "Loch Ness Monster" over the years in places where it lives, such as southeast Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, West Africa, Chile and the Caribbean. A more accurate nickname is "the living fossil," since this shark belongs to a primitive species that has changed very little over millions of years.
Frilled Shark Anatomy
When open, the frilled shark's mouth reveals 300 trident-shaped teeth aligned in 25 rows. Aside from its unmistakable toothiness, the mouth looks larger than that of other sharks because its jaws terminate at the back of the fish's head instead of underneath the skull. The head appears to be all mouth, capped off at the throat region with six frilled gills, hence its name.
The first gill slit cuts right across the throat, making it look as if someone sliced it with a knife there. The rest of the brown body is nearly identical to that of an eel, save for the elasmobranch's small pectoral fins, dorsal fin, anal fin and lengthy caudal fin. Because of the fin placement and shape, R. Aidan Martin of the ReefQuest Center for Shark Research once described the shark's posterior as looking like "the wings on a throwing dart."
Frill or Frilled?
The frill shark is also known as the Frilled Shark. Learn more about Frill shark behavior and reproduction here.