Marine biologists have found a rare deepwater shark off the coast of Scotland, which they have nicknamed a ‘sofa shark’ due to its ‘saggy, chilled out’ appearance.
Dr Francis Neat and his team from Marine Scotland were undertaking a routine fish population survey around the remote islands of Barra and St Kilda when the bizarre looking creature from the deep flopped out of their net and onto the deck.
The scientists identified it as a false catshark (Pseudotrakias microdon); only the second specimen of its kind recorded in Scottish waters in a decade. After weighing and photographing the strange, flabby beast, they returned it to the sea so that it would have a chance to survive.
The female false catshark weighed in at a hefty 60kg; however, the species has been known to reach a weight of 125kg and a length of up to three metres.
‘As a joke we nicknamed it the “sofa shark” as it had a rather saggy and chilled out look about it. Contrary to popular belief, scientists do have a sense of humour!’ said Francis. ‘Between its curious looks and nickname, it appears to have tickled the world’s media and the report of it has gone a bit viral.’
The ‘sofa shark’, which was found at a depth of 1,000 metres, is one of around 25 species of deep sea shark thought to lurk in the waters around Scotland. The peculiar predator has a long keel-like dorsal fin, a soft, squidgy body, slanting eyes and a large mouth filled with rows of tiny needle-like teeth. Some reports have likened it to a blobfish—a deep sea sculpin found off Australia, which was recently voted the world’s ugliest animal—but according to Francis, the two species are completely different.
‘We know very little about them—what they eat, how many there might be and whether or not it’s just a visitor to Scottish waters. It is known to have an odd form of pregnancy whereby the developing young eat eggs produced by the mother,’ he added. ‘Most deep sea sharks are bizarre and interesting, for example, we often find whale meat inside the stomachs of some species such as the Portuguese dogfish.’