The Frilled Shark is a fascinating creature. Scientifically named Chlamydoselachus Anguineus, it is so old that it is considered a living fossil.
Its name comes from the deep gills on both sides of its body. The gills give it a unique fringed appearance rather than the smooth, streamlined body of other sharks like the Great White.
Frilled Sharks are interesting because of their short gills and unusually shaped bodies. Despite their classification as a shark they share many characteristics with other aquatic animals such as eels and swordfish.
But like many sharks, their buoyancy and movement through the water are distinct and intriguing.
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The consensus on the appearance of Frilled Sharks is that they look much closer to a large eel than a shark. They are quite frightening to see.
Their fins and body shape are the main reason for this, but they are also smaller than what most people expect.
Females tend to be much larger than the males of this species. A female can grow up to 6.6 feet in length from tip to tail, while males only grow to about 5.6 feet.
However, these are the maximum length recorded, and most Frilled Sharks grow to be around 5 feet long.
Their average weight is a whopping 200 pounds, but that’s nothing compared to other shark species that can weigh over 1,200 pounds.
The Frilled Shark is not the most majestic creature. As mentioned, they are considered living fossils, and frankly, they look like one. They have dark brownish-grey skin that looks rough and uneven.
They have a narrow mouth and an extremely long head with short gills, making them look more like a large eel than a variety of sharks.
Their head is flat, but not like a hammerhead, as they have a rounded snout. Again, they have a similar nose to an eel.
They have more than 300 spiked teeth in their jaw that have a trident-like appearance. More than 20 rows of teeth line both the upper and lower jaw; each row contains roughly seven teeth stacked together for optimal hunting.
The jaw is massive, seaming almost unnatural with how easily it opens to an impressive width.
They have small, round fins, so they are not as aerodynamic as many other species of sharks. In addition to their two small front fins, they have four anal fins located toward the end of their body on each side.
These fins are also rounded, but much wider, and help push them. And their tail fin has a flat, horizontal shape, which is more common in dolphin species than sharks.
Frilled Sharks live a long, happy life. They usually pass away at around 25 years of age. But because scientists have trouble tracking Frilled Sharks for long periods, this is only an estimation based on specimens gathered.
They have no significant life stages or milestones other than when they sexually mature. Interestingly, their sexual maturity seems to depend on their size rather than age.
Males mature when they reach about 3.5 feet long and females mature around 4.5 feet long. Unlike many fish species, Frilled Sharks reproduce by internal fertilization, meaning the sperm enters the female and fertilizes the egg within their body.
Then, they give live birth to a litter rather than releasing eggs to hatch in the ocean as Clownfish do.
A Frilled Shark litter can be anywhere between two and fifteen youth sharks at a time, but the average is six per litter.
The strangest aspect of the Frilled Shark reproductive process is the gestation period. From fertilization to birth the female carries its young in its body for around 42 months or 3.5 years.
This fact is difficult to confirm, as they are hard to study in their deep ocean habitat, but evidence points towards a long pregnancy.
Researchers know they spend most of their time on the ocean floor, except when they hunt. They can be found 390 to 4,200 feet under the ocean surface but may dive as deep as 5,200 feet.
The Frilled Shark tends to reside in outer and upper continental shelves. They cannot be found anywhere, but the populations live in specific locations.
These locations include Suruga Bay, Japan, and near the coasts of New Zealand, Australia, and Hawaii.
Like most sharks, the Frilled Shark is near the top of its food chain, eating smaller aquatic animals that cross its path.
Frilled Sharks never stop eating; all they do is hunt. So their hunting techniques combine active attacks and passive methods of catching prey.
Frilled Sharks cannot swim very fast, so they curl their tails up against a hard surface to use it to push off and dart at passing prey. This technique is similar to how snakes capture prey, using their tail to propel them forward.
They will also swim along the ocean floor with their mouth wide open. Their shiny white teeth sometimes attract smaller prey, leading them right into the shark’s mouth.
This passive hunting method works quite well for them on the dark ocean floor, camouflaging their body.
Frilled Sharks can eat prey up to half the size of their body, thanks to their large mouth and many teeth.
They mainly survive off various species of squids, including Onychoteuthis, Histioteuthis, and Todarodes.
They also eat smaller bonefish that dwell toward the ocean floor as well as smaller shark species. These fish are commonly the victims of their passive hunting techniques because they are attracted to shiny objects.
Little is known about what animals prey upon Frilled Sharks. But it is suspected that larger sharks that live in the same area may consume them.
The likeliest predator would be Great Whites, as they are massive and known to eat other sharks often. They also thrive in the deepest part of the ocean and are plentiful in Japan.
Unfortunately, humans have contributed to the minor decline of the Frilled Shark population. This decline is due to overfishing, as humans remove large quantities of the Frilled Shark prey they need to survive.
These prey include bony fish and squid consumed in parts of Asia. It isn’t super common, but sometimes Frilled Sharks become entangled in fishing nets.
When this happens, they almost always die due to a lack of water moving through their gills. Essentially, they suffocate in these nets before they can be cut free.
Like most shark species, Frilled Sharks thrive in colder water. So if the surface of the water reaches a temperature above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, they will dive deeper to find a colder environment.
As the earth warms up, it becomes harder and harder for them to find comfortable water. And while their bodies can mostly handle pollution, microbeads kill off much of their prey, depleting their food source.
As mentioned, the likeliest predator that consumes Frilled Sharks would be Great Whites. But there is no evidence of this.
Researchers and scientists can only guess what animals may prey on the Frilled Shark because they live so far out of human reach. The main threat to their species is humans overfishing and eliminating their food.
Sharks can handle some pollution better than smaller fish, but microplastics are the main threat to their health.
They breathe and ingest these microplastics in large quantities because they are constantly moving through the water and always eating.
The conservation status of the Frilled Sharks is currently not a massive concern, but they are Near Threatened.
The threats that humans and pollution pose to the Frilled Shark population have not yet had a great effect on the species.
Researchers fear that these threats will eventually reduce the population. Because of their extensive gestation period, it puts the species more at risk because it takes longer for new sharks to be born.
- Scientists and researchers have never been able to thoroughly study the Frilled Shark in its natural environment. Most information has come from injured, dead, or washed-up Frilled Sharks.
- Frilled Sharks may have the longest gestation period, almost twice as long as the elephant, which carries its young for two years before birth.
- It is cousins with the Goblin Shark species, which can throw its jaw out of its face to catch prey.
- Their young are ready to live independently from the moment they are born and do not require any teaching to hunt.