Living fossil caught off coast of Japan

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Frilled shark is a living fossil found in deep water.

A frilled shark was spotted off the coast of Japan on January 21, 2007 and taken to the Awashima Marine Park in Shizuoka, Japan where it was filmed and later died.

"We believe moving pictures of a live specimen are extremely rare," said an official with the Awashima Marine Park.

The frilled shark, Chlamydoselachus anguineus, is a member of a 350 million year old family, and characterised by an eel-like appearance with a distinctive protrusion of the gills.

The 1.6m female specimen was spotted in shallow waters by a local fisherman who contacted the Awashima Marine Park who were able to catch the shark.

The video is available on many websites including "YouTube" and shows the dying shark swimming around the aquarium with its mouth open.

It is unknown as to why the shark was in such shallow waters, but officials say it might have been sick. Its usual habitat is between 120 meters and 1280 meters in depth where it feeds on squid and bony fish. The sharks grow to 2 meters in length and are regularly caught by bottom trawlers and used as fish bait.

"They live between 1,968 and 3,280 feet (600 and 1,000 meters) under the water, which is deeper than humans can go," added the park official.

"We think it may have come close to the surface because it was sick, or else it was weakened because it was in shallow waters," continued the official.

This species is a living fossil, having a close resemblance to fossil records of paleozoic sharks. In comparison modern sharks have 5 sets of gills whereas the frilled shark has 6 sets.