The deep ocean is a very mysterious place. It’s full of strange species that you never would have thought existed, being both strange and hauntingly beautiful at the same time. But there they are, with their glowing, bulbous heads and fang like teeth, swimming far below. There are around 400 known shark species, and biologists are discovering more every year. The most mysterious being the deep sea sharks, many of which are living fossils that continue to thrive far below the surface, completely untouched by the outside world. Many of these sharks have only recently been discovered and very little is known about them, but each one is surely unique.
10. Greenland Shark
Though not typically aggressive, this shark is one of the larger species. Living in the cold north, the Greenland shark can live to be 200 years old. The Greenland shark takes chunks out of its prey much like the cookiecutter shark, and has been known to eat anything it can find. Due to a parasitic worm that feeds on its cornea, the Greenland shark has developed an impeccable sense of smell to make up for their lack of sight. They vary between slate grey to black in color, with a purplish tint on the sides. This accompanied by white spots and dark bands covering their bodies, gives them a fantastic camouflage.
They have surprisingly small fins in comparison to their size; despite this occurrence and their slow swimming style, they do have wide tails that aid in short acceleration bursts. They have been known to surface and drag reindeer down into the water to drown them, as well as polar bears and horses. They can be found anywhere from 180 to 730m (600 to 2,400ft).
Fact: Greenland sharks have poisonous flesh.
9. Cookiecutter Shark
Belonging to the dogfish family, the cookiecutter shark has the typical traits of a normal dogfish, but only reach a length of 22 inches. The average is about 1ft in length. Despite their small size, these sharks have some of the largest teeth of any shark, and when the teeth fall out, it is believed that they are swallowed in order to strengthen the skeleton with calcium, which is needed for all the deep sea diving this species does. They feed on almost anything they can get a bite into, leaving telltale signs of their attack: a round wound on live prey. Vicious little guys, they latch on and start twisting their bodies around until they are able to take out a clean round chunk out of the prey. It has been noted that they will sometimes move in schools if they are attracted to larger prey. They have bioluminescent cells on their belly, allowing them to glow in the dark, often attracting other fish to come closer. They have been recorded at depths of 3.7km, but are typically found in waters below 1,000m (3,281ft) deep.
8. Megamouth Shark
Much like the whale shark and basking shark, the megamouth swims with its mouth wide open, swallowing tiny organisms such as jellyfish and plankton. Discovered in 1976, only 59 have ever been recorded. It grows to a length of 5.5m (18ft), and has a tail similar to thresher sharks. The inside of their gills contain finger-like rakes that capture food when water is expelled from their mouths. Brownish-black in color, these sharks have a soft, flabby body and are slow swimmers. Megamouth sharks also have bioluminescent cells on the inside of their mouths that light up to attract specimens into their gaping jaws. They navigate the ocean waters at a depth between 150m to 1,000m.
7. Goblin Shark
Goblin sharks vary in color, between grey and greyish pink. This pink is not due to pigmentation of their skin, but is actually caused by the transparency their skin has, allowing the color of their blood vessels to be seen, giving the shark a pinkish hue. Often called “snaggle-tooth”, the goblin shark has terrifyingly sharp, fang-like teeth that are attached to their soft, delicate, protruding jaw. Both the top and bottom jaw can extend out so that the shark can grab onto their prey, with their teeth hooking into the prey’s skin. These sharks will eat anything they come across. Though once considered to be deep-water dwellers (1,200m/2,940ft), the contents found in the stomachs of a few goblin sharks suggests that they prefer mid-water depths.
6. Frilled Shark
A living fossil that is rarely seen due to the depths in which it swims, the frilled shark is quite possibly one of the creepiest deep-sea sharks. With the exception of their fins, this shark closely resembles an eel with its long sea serpent body that reaches a length of 2m (6.6ft). It doesn’t have the girth that most sharks do, and their dorsal, pelvic, and back fins are placed close to their tale. They have the ability to move very slowly and even hover in the water, in a position quite similar to when a snake rears its head before it strikes. Scientists theorize that they use crevices and caves to hunt for food, as well as circling around their prey with their bodies and swallowing it whole.
As their name suggests, the frilled shark has 25 rows of 300 thin, triangular pointed teeth that give the illusion of frills inside their mouths. Their diets include mollusks, octopus, and other sharks. Their 6 gills bulge out from their sides and are bright red, giving the appearance that the shark was slashed with a sword, with the first gill stretching right across the throat. It has been discovered that their gestation period is around 42 months (3 ½ years), the longest of any vertebrate. They have been known to live in depths of 1,570m, giving them the ability to survive long periods of time with very little food.
5. Kitefin Shark
Also known as the black shark, or Darkie Charlie, this shark is greyish black to reddish brown in color, and reaches a length of 1.8m. The fins have a white fringe while the tail has a black fringe, and the first dorsal fin is smaller than the second. The kitefin shark is the only species from the North Atlantic to have large, triangular, serrated lower teeth. The upper teeth are long and slender, curving outward toward the corners of the mouth. As with many other deep sea sharks, the kitefin has large green colored eyes that help capture any light filtering through the dark waters. It is commonly found around 1,800m deep, feeding on a variety of fish that include cod, viperfish, shrimp, and lobsters. It’s short snout and fin fringes define it from other similar species, including the velvet dogfish.
4. Bluntnose Six-Gill Shark
Recognized by their long tails and comb-like, yellow lower teeth, the bluntnose sixgill shark is one of the larger sharks of the world, growing to an average length of 16ft. Being highly sensitive to light, they prowl in depths of 2,000m (6,500ft), while coming closer to the surface during the night, and sinking again during the day. Its body resembles that of a prehistoric shark, with its translucent eyelids, and bright green eyes. The sixgill shark lives all around the world, but prefers continental shelves, feeding on a wide variety of organisms including squid, large bony fish, rays, and dead animals that lay at the bottom of the ocean. This shark is believed to be able to live up to 80 years, with a gestation period of 12 to 24 months. The litter size is incredibly large, ranging anywhere from 22 pups to 108.
3. Longnose Velvet Dogfish
Very similar to the kitefin, this is a slender bodied deep-water shark that is black or brownish in color. A long nosed shark with small gill slits, the velvet dogfish has small spines on their dorsal fins and can reach a total length of 1.35m. This shark specifically feeds on cephalopods and bony fish that are found at depths of 270-2,080m (6,824ft). Their upper teeth are long and pointed, while their lower teeth are flatter oblique hooks.
2. Ghost Shark
Also known as elephant shark, this fish is a type of Chimaera (ghost sharks). This shark has a distinctive head that allows it to dig into the muddy ocean floor to find shellfish. It’s eyes tend to have a greenish tinge and are very large. Found at depths reaching 3.2km (2mi) below the surface, this ghost shark doesn’t really look like a shark. It has large flappy pectoral fins, 2 on each side that allow them to swim slowly. They also have crushing plates as teeth instead of the normal sharp daggers most sharks have. Their dorsal fins are also serrated and reportedly toxic, causing serious damage to the nervous system if ingested.
1. Portuguese Dogfish
One of the deepest of the deep swimmers, the Portuguese dogfish shark remains at a depth of 1,000m (33,000ft), and has been recorded as deep as 3.7km (2.3mi). Resembling a bony fish rather than a shark, these fish have a dark brown coloration and only grow to be 1.58m (5.2ft) long, with very small fins. Known to live 70 years, this shark is an active, stealthy predator, feeding mainly on octopus, and squid. They can be found off the coasts of Ireland, Portugal, North America, and South Africa.