Frilled Shark - Chlamydoselachus anguineus
Status: Near Threatened … A living fossil species, dating back at least 95 million years
Location: Found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans - in the Eastern Atlantic found from Norway to South Africa.
Size: Between 100cm and 150cm (with females usually larger than males), the longest frilled shark on record was 197cm
Habitat: Deep water up to 1,500m, usually between 500m and 1,000m.
Little is known about the frilled shark, although the fossil record suggests it belongs to a group of sharks that has been around for at least 95 million years! Because it usually lives at depth it is very rarely seen alive. The first live sighting in the wild was by a submersible deep off the coast of the USA in 2004. Frilled sharks look really different to most of the sharks we’re familiar with, and their long, snake-like appearance is thought to have inspired the tales of huge sea serpents. It has a large blunt head and a very large mouth armed with lots of rows of sharp teeth. The shark uses these teeth to catch fish, squid and smaller sharks. Behind the head are 6 pairs of ‘frilly’ gill slits, with the first pair going all the way around the neck to meet underneath. These gill slits have the appearance of ruffles or frills around its neck, and give the animal its name.
There’s no global population estimate for this species, or any idea of population trends. Frilled sharks are thought to have a patchy but global range. However, it has recently emerged that the frilled sharks off the coast of south east Africa are a separate species. Other sub species and species may well exist. The biggest threat to frilled sharks is bycatch – they’re accidentally caught in deep-set gill nets, long-lines and bottom-trawls for deep water fish - and once caught they are either used for fish-meal or discarded. Due to their slow reproduction bycatch is likely to represent a real threat and any measures to reduce bycatch of these sharks would be beneficial to the population.
Did you know?
- The frilled shark is also known as the Lizard Shark or Scaffold Shark.
- The frilled shark has several rows of needle-sharp, tricuspid teeth, meaning each tooth has three sharp points, which are used for grabbing and holding onto its slippery squid prey. Its wide gape means that it can catch and swallow prey as big as half its size.
- The lifecycle is mostly unknown, and frilled sharks do not have a defined breeding season because seasons do not affect their deep-water habitat.
- In 2013, Marine Scotland caught a frilled shark while surveying the Atlantic islet of Rockall.
What MCS is doing:
- Campaigning for better management of deep water fisheries that might impact frilled sharks;
- Campaigning for more offshore marine protected areas to protect frilled shark deep water habitats.