I kind of have a thing for “living fossils.” Maybe it’s just because I watched Jurassic Park a few too many times in my youth, but I love the idea that there’s so much of our planet’s natural history still visible to us today, from the deep and fascinating layers of geology to the life forms that haven’t changed much in the last few million years. Some of those animals are so bizarre that they’re almost difficult to comprehend: they seem like things that couldn’t possibly exist in our world. Maybe they think the same about us.
One of those creatures is the frilled shark, which is notable not only for its overwhelming creepiness but also because it’s one of those deep-sea swimmers that we rarely see. They’re something of a reminder to us of just how much we don’t know about our planet and the other creatures that live here. And the fossil record on these animals goes back 80 million years. 80 million years. Let that sink in for a moment while you watch this video of an extremely rare live specimen that was found off the coast of Japan:
(It’s worth noting that this shark was way outside of its habitat long before it was captured and taken to the marine park, so while I’m not a big fan of the “We have found a rare animal, let us place it in captivity!” mentality, this shark was likely already dying before it was captured.)
We don’t really know that much about frilled sharks, because of the depths at which they usually reside (thousands of feet below the surface). We do know they eat things like squid and other sharks. Their teeth are three-pronged and their fixed upper jaws (unlike the hinged ones of modern sharks) give some idea of exactly how far back the genetic heritage goes on these sharks.
As a bonus, because personally I believe that one creepy shark simply isn’t enough, here are a few more. This is a Goblin Shark:
This thing has a mouth that practically acts independent of its body; check out how the mouth works when the shark bites into the diver’s suit (presumably no divers were harmed in the making of this documentary :D), and then how the mouth returns to its original configuration once the shark lets go. This shark is like the transformer of the sea. Or maybe I ought to compare it to Alien. Whatever, it’s freaking awesome.
My favorite freaky prehistoric shark video, however, is this one of the Six-Gilled Shark, filmed at a depth of 3300 feet:
It’s not the world’s most exciting video, and the Six-Gilled Shark doesn’t look all that different from the sharks we’re more familiar with, but this thing is massive, at about 18 feet long. (There are larger sharks, like the Basking Shark, but this one’s pretty impressive anyway.) The best part of the video is the audio though, so make sure you watch it with the sound on so you can listen to some marine scientists having a joygasm over the sighting.