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Unusual shark caught off the coast of Taiwan

An unusual catch happened to ichthyologists in Taiwan. They caught five specimens of an extremely rare shark Trigonognathus kabeyai, also known as Viper dogfish. This fish is very rare and is characterised by quite a distinctive appearance and build, which for many brings to mind the title character of the ‘Alien’ film series. Scientists from
Published: January 14, 2018 - 17:10
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 16:20
Unusual shark caught off the coast of Taiwan

An unusual catch happened to ichthyologists in Taiwan. They caught five specimens of an extremely rare shark Trigonognathus kabeyai, also known as Viper dogfish. This fish is very rare and is characterised by quite a distinctive appearance and build, which for many brings to mind the title character of the ‘Alien’ film series.

Scientists from the Taiwan Ichthyological Institute can talk about a lot of luck. Viper dogfish is an extremely rarely seen representative of the underwater kingdom. The species was discovered only in 1986 and since then, within three decades, its representatives have been seen only a few times.

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viper-dogfish-sharks

As far as we know, this unusual shark lives in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Hawaii, Japan and Taiwan. It is distinguished by its small size – about 0.5 metres, as well as by its shiny, pitch-black skin and extremely characteristic jaw structure. It is this last element that makes it impossible to confuse it with any other fish.

The triangular protruding jaws, full of needle-like teeth, are all too reminiscent of the “Alien” series. Thanks to this jaw structure, the Viper dogfish can reach and grasp its prey more easily. As we have been able to determine from the contents of its stomach, its menu consists mainly of bonefish and crustaceans, which it swallows whole.

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According to the findings of ichthyologists over the last 30 years, Trigonognathus kabeyai inhabits the ocean depths and the population, as well as the range of the species, is very small. Hence, this creature is still very poorly understood, and is most often seen by humans as an unfortunate and accidental catch.

A distinctive feature of the Viper dogfish is the possession of photophores – light-emitting cells (again, not so uncommon in creatures inhabiting the ocean depths). Researchers estimate that up to 75% of all marine fauna emit some type of light, for a wide variety of purposes.

In the case of the shark described, it is suspected that this reason is to attract a mate or prey. As most catches of Trigonognathus kabeyai have been made at night, it is assumed that the fish feeds after sunset in shallower waters.

All but one of the individuals captured so far were dead. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of ichthyologists in Taiwan, a live individual also died after just one day.

Source: sciencealert.com Photo: Taiwanese Fisheries Research Institute

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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