A pocket shark isn’t like a pocket knife, where it fits into your pocket, it is a rare shark that actually has pockets in its body, one under each fin. “Think ‘Jaws’ meets kangaroo,” when trying to put your head around what a pocket shark would look like, suggests Fox News on April 24.
This is the newest and rarest species of shark found of the coast of the U.S. in the Gulf of Mexico. The pocket shark was one of many creatures fished out of the Gulf during a government research trip in 2010 and from there its dead carcass sat in a freezer waiting to be identified.
What the scientists found during this trip was a “tiny” version of a very rare species of shark. This specimen was one of many creatures pulled up from the deep during that research trip. Then after more than three years in a deep freeze waiting its turn for an examination, it finally came time to analyze this creature which was found to have pockets. This discovery elated the researchers because of the extreme rarity of this shark.
Just how rare is this pocket shark? There has only been one seen besides this one and that creature was caught 36 years ago off the coast of Peru in the Pacific Ocean, reports The Business Insider today. That species is sitting in a Russian museum because up until now, it was the only one known to mankind!
The latest pocket shark captured is just a baby, scientists estimate it is only a few weeks old and it is about 5.5 inches long. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries biologist Mark Grace has spent the past 30 going through specimens of fish identifying them.
This pocket shark was at the bottom of the heap in the freezer and he said it is lucky that it wasn’t tossed out after the lab lost its power several times since that fish went into the freezer. Luckily it didn’t because this is a big find, especially because it came from U.S. waters in the Gulf of Mexico.
This pocket shark still had its umbilical cord scars suggesting it was an infant, which would mean it was born in the Gulf. The world now has two double pocket sharks as specimens, but still it is not known what the pockets provide this species. It is not a pocket to carry their young and the other oddity about these pockets is that they are very large, taking up about 4 percent of the shark’s body.
The shark also sports unusual belly patches not seen on other sharks. You can see those belly spots in the slideshow above, along with other pictures of the pocket shark. The pocket shark that’s housed in the Russian museum is an adult female and it is about 17 inches long. Scientists believe the females may be the larger of the two sexes in the pocket shark family.
Scientists speculate the shark’s pockets may secrete some type of glowing fluid or pheromones, but what the pockets are actually there for is not known. This latest pocket shark find was shipped to New York then onto France. The technology housed in facilities in those cities will allow for in-depth examinations without puncturing the shark’s body.
Grace said that since the pocket shark was a newborn when found in the Gulf of Mexico, it was most likely born in those waters, which means others are out there. This shark was caught about 190 miles off the Louisiana coast by the ship Pisces in February of 2010. He believes there are more out there, but it won’t be known for sure until the evidence comes up at the end of a fishing line or from inside a fishing net.