The frilled shark is one of the most elusive and mysterious sharks in the ocean. With a snake-like body and 300 razor-sharp teeth, this “living fossil” has captivated both scientists and ocean enthusiasts alike. But how many of these primordial predators still remain?
An Overview of Frilled Sharks
|Scientific Name||Chlamydoselachus anguineus or Chlamydoselachus africana|
|Average Length||4.5 – 6 feet|
|Habitat||Deep ocean waters, 500-1500 meters|
|Diet||Squid, fish, smaller sharks|
|Lifespan||Estimated up to 25 years|
|Gestation Period||Estimated at 3.5 years – one of the longest of any vertebrate|
|Conservation Status||Near Threatened (IUCN)|
|Global Population||Unknown, likely only a few hundred per region|
Frilled sharks belong to the family Chlamydoselachidae. They are named for their distinctive gill slits, which give them a “frilled” appearance.
There are only two known species:
These sharks have an eel-like body that can reach over 6 feet in length. They prefer deep waters between 500-1500 meters and feed primarily on squid, fish, and smaller sharks.
Frilled sharks are ovoviviparous – the embryos develop inside eggs that remain within the mother’s body until they are ready to hatch. The gestation period is incredibly long, estimated at 3.5 years!
The IUCN Red List categorizes frilled sharks as Near Threatened.
Frilled Shark populations are decreasing worldwide, although exact numbers are unknown. Factors contributing to their decline include:
- Bycatch – Frilled sharks are accidentally caught in deepsea trawl and gillnet fisheries. They are discarded or used as bait.
- Habitat degradation – Pollution, oil spills, and accumulation of plastics/trash in deep waters.
- Slow reproduction – Their lengthy gestation period limits reproductive capacity.
Estimated Global Population
As deepsea creatures, frilled sharks are rarely observed in the wild. Their global population has never been directly surveyed. However, studies suggest:
- They are naturally rare.
- Populations are sparsely distributed worldwide.
- Local abundances likely range from only a few dozen to a few hundred.
While we may never know exactly how many frilled sharks remain, it is clear their populations are decreasing. Further research and conservation efforts are needed to preserve these fascinating “living fossils” for future generations.
Facts About Frilled Sharks
- Frilled sharks are nicknamed “living fossils” since their lineage dates back around 80 million years. Their ancient anatomical features resemble extinct species.
- These sharks can coil their bodies and strike prey like a snake. Their unique jaw structure allows them to swallow prey whole.
- Frilled sharks have spines on their dorsal fins likely used for courtship or mating rituals.
- Their liver is oil-filled, making up 25% of their total body weight. This buoyancy aid allows them to remain suspended in deep water.
- Frilled sharks are one of the only shark species that exhibit oophagy – the embryos feed on unfertilized eggs inside the mother’s uterus.
Frilled sharks remain mysterious creatures that provide a portal into prehistoric times. With decreasing populations worldwide, ongoing conservation efforts are needed to preserve these rare and fascinating “living fossils” for future generations. Though sightings are scarce, frilled sharks continue to captivate people with their unique appearance and hunting style, reminding us of the wonders still undiscovered in the deep ocean.