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Frilled Shark (Chlamydoselachus anguineus)
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Taxonomic name: Chlamydoselachus anguineus
This is one of the most bizarre shark species. The Frilled Shark is a deep water dweller, having been found in depths to 1570m. They have also been found near the surface but would normally dwell in much deeper waters below 200m, making them a bathydemersal species.
Species distribution is very patchy, but world wide. They are uncommon, found as by-catch in deep water trawls, and considered to be a “primitive” shark. Teeth from 11 known extinct species can be found in the fossil record. There is one other Frilled Shark species, the Southern African Frilled Shark (Chlamydoselachus africana), found on the west coast of Africa, from southern Angola around to the Indian Ocean in South Africa, which differs only in a few proportional measurements.
Their taxonomic name, Chlamydoselachus anguineus, means "cloak or cape (Chlamys) shark (selachos)" and "snake-like (anguineus)", meaning a long, slender, snake-like animal with a cape or cloak-like set of gills.
The six gills of this species are disproportionately large, wrapping almost completely around the body, with a soft frilled edge to the operculum (the flap of skin that covers the gill opening). The first two gills actually join under the throat.
On close inspection, their most obvious feature is the large mouth lined with tricuspid teeth. The centre cusp or point is narrow and needle sharp. On either side of the central cusp are two much shorter, but still narrow and pointed, cusps.
The teeth are arranged in rows, like many other shark species, with the front-most tooth being replaced, when it’s broken off, by the next tooth in line rotating forward. Due to the “triple point” structure, the teeth appear to be in clusters or rows running back into the mouth. An adult may have up to 300 individual teeth in it’s cavernous jaws.
Unlike other shark species, the upper and lower jaws have similar shaped holding teeth, in contrast with other species which have narrow holding teeth in the lower jaw and triangular serrated cutting teeth in the upper jaw. The jaws extend back behind the fairly large eyes.
The very large mouth, tricuspid teeth and oversized gills indicate that this species grabs, holds then swallows their prey whole. The large gills become exposed when swallowing large prey, due to the distortion of the mouth and throat, allowing the shark to continue to breath while having a blocked throat.
Stomach contents of captured species indicate that it eats squid, rays, small sharks and boney fish. In other words, anything that happens to take it’s interest.
The long, eel-like body is usually grey to reddish-brown, sometimes grading to a lighter shade on the belly. The dorsal fin is set well back, around the ventral and anal fins. The tail has a small lower lobe and a long tapered upper lobe.
The skin is rough to the touch, like a fine grade of sandpaper. The small pectoral fins are set just behind and below the gills. The lateral line (a line of pressure sensitive organs) is obvious, starting high on the back immediately above the gills and terminating near the tail. Swimming motion is sinuous and eel-like.
Frilled Sharks are ovoviviparous, meaning that the embryos develop inside eggs that are retained within the mother's body until they are ready to hatch. They are born at 40-60cm long, in litter sizes of 2-10. Gestation time has been estimated to be around 3.5 years, making this species susceptible to overfishing due to low population growth. Adults grow to about 2m long.