A rare sofa shark was caught of the cost of Scotland during a recent deep sea survey. Scientists confirmed the female shark was eight feet long and weighed more than 132 pounds. Although the unusual creature was incredibly rare, the researchers released the live specimen after taking several photos and measurements.
Sofa sharks live in oceans throughout the world. However, they are rarely seen — as they generally prefer deeper waters. As reported by Sussle, the elusive creatures are ground sharks, which are most plentiful along the continental and insular slopes between 600 and 5,000 feet below the surface.
— Susan vonThun (@omgirlsvt) October 6, 2015
Discovered in the 1800s by marine biologist Félix de Brito Capelo, the fish was originally mistaken for a member of the genus Triakis. As his original theory was later disproven, Brito Capelo created a new genus Pseudotriakis specifically for the mysterious creature. The sofa fish remains the only fish in its genus and family.
The Greek name was eventually translated to the commonly used false catshark. The large-soft bodied fishes were later nicknamed sofa sharks, as their bulky bodies somewhat resemble a worn sofa.
Most false catsharks are a medium to dark brown color with a distinct dorsal fine and narrow cat-like eyes. It is believed that the appearance of the shark’s eyes may have contributed to its nickname.
With thousands of razor-sharp teeth, and lengths up to 10-foot-long, sofa sharks appear quite intimidating. However, they are generally “sluggish” and slow-moving. As they rarely leave the deep waters, they are not considered a threat to humans.
Although they are predators, which feed on eels, octopuses, and squids, false catsharks are also scavengers.
In 1992, researchers dissected a sofa shark to evaluate the content of its stomach. As reported by Discovery, the scientists were stunned to discover the fish had consumed “large quantities of human garbage, including a plastic bag, soft drink can, potatoes and a pear.”
The unusual creatures are generally quite elusive. However the International Union for Conservation of Nature has not determined whether false catsharks are endangered. The species is currently classified as “data deficient” by the IUCN.
— Christopher Bird (@SharkDevocean) October 5, 2015
Sofa sharks have little, if any, commercial value. However, they are periodically caught or killed in trawling nets or on longline hooks. The unusual creatures may also be “susceptible to population depletion,” as they are slow to reach sexual maturity and only two pups are born during each breeding cycle.
Scientists with the Marine Scotland agency confirmed a false catshark was caught off the coast of Scotland in the Outer Hebrides.
Marine biologist Francis Neat discusses the unique discovery.
“I was pretty surprised when it landed in our boat… We hadn’t seen one in ten years… it’s certainly interesting to look at – it’s a big and baggy-looking creature. It looks a lot like a soft, discarded sofa… “
A spokesperson with the Scottish Shark Tagging program said the discovery is significant. As reported by Scotsman, marine biologists previously identified a total of 32 sharks — which are living in the waters around Scotland.
Extensive research, including exploration of deeper waters, has led to the discovery of 40 more species which were previously unknown in Scottish waters.
The discovery of the sofa shark in Scotland is significant for several reasons. In addition to confirming the species’ existence in Scottish waters, the scientists had an opportunity to collect data — while sparing the fish’s life.
[Image via Shutterstock]