In a research paper recently published by NOAA biologist Mark Grace he’s announced that among a group of fish gathered back in 2010 off the coast of Louisiana that have been sitting in the freezer of his lab is an extremely rare ‘pocket shark’, the last of which was found 36 years ago off the coast of Peru. This is only the second time in history that we humans have come in contact with the pocket shark, and there’s very little that we know about the shark that’s only 5.5-inches in length, and small enough to fit in your pocket.
I don’t know about you bros, but it kind of makes me pucker my chocolate starfish in anger at the thought that there’s a shark so tiny it could lose a fight against a Siamese Fighting Fish (betta). So what if the rare pocket shark is a whopping 2 to 3 inches longer than the Siamese Fighting Fight, just look at how aggressive the little betta’s can be:
Now imagine a reclusive 5.5-inch shark going up against something like that! It’d get wiped off the endangered species chart in no time (if it’s even on there)!
News of this incredibly rare discovery was published yesterday by Discovery:
The tiny was among a group of fish caught during a NOAA study in 2010 near Louisiana. The fish were then frozen to study sperm whale feeding. Scientists have been slowly sorting through these frozen fish for the past five years.
Upon discovering a “remarkable pocket gland with its large slit-like external opening located just above the pectoral fin,” NOAA biologist Mark Grace realized this was not just another ordinary fish, as detailed in his Zootaxa research paper.
It’s not clear what exactly the shark’s pocket gland is used for, but scientists think it could be for releasing pheromones, based on previous research of similar species. The pocket shark’s scientific name is Mollisquama, and although at only 5.5 inches long you could theoretically fit it in your pocket, its common name actually comes from this gland.
NOAA Ocean Service genetics expert Gavin Naylor was able to determine that the pocket shark’s closest relatives are the kitefin shark and the cookie cutter shark, who are fellow members of the Dalatiidae species. While they will often eat smaller sea animals whole, when looking for food, most Dalatiidae will chew out an oval plug of meat from larger creatures.
Now I’m no marine biologist, but my hunch would’ve been that this tiny pocket shark is some sort of spurdog, and closely related to the Dwarf Lanternshark (8.3in). One thing I’m still hung up on though is the fact that we’re calling these creatures sharks. Shouldn’t we have a new name for ‘sharks‘ that are so puny they’d easily get gobbled up by 95% of the fish you or I ever come in contact with?
For more info on this weird and fascinating finding, click on over to Discovery News to read about the pocket shark!