Researchers working on a project off the coast of Portugal caught an 80 million-year-old prehistoric shark just last week.

As an islander, if you were to ask me why humans should stay away from the ocean, you might get more than you bargained for. Having to encounter a shark has always been on top of my list, and that was before I saw this newly-discovered prehistoric shark that sports over 300 teeth!

No, it’s not science fiction. Researchers working on a European-Union-sponsored project at the Institute for the Sea and Atmosphere off the Algarve coast in Portugal indeed caught a dinosaur-era shark, a rare frilled shark, aboard a trawler. Dubbed as a ‘living fossil,’ the scientists from the Institute for the Sea and Atmosphere said that its remains had been dated back to 80 million years ago.

The frilled shark is considered as one of the few ‘living fossils’ to exist today, which exists on a list together with the goblin shark and giant salamander, to name a few.

Living fossil is a term coined by scientists to refer to living or recently extinct organisms that resemble those known only from fossil records. Species could be declared as living fossils if the fossil species are old relative to the time of origin of the extant clade (existing descendant).

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Goblin shark
Goblin shark | Spirit Science| thespiritscience.net

This Prehistoric Shark is a Person’s Worst Nightmare

If you think that the great white shark is something to fear, the frilled shark looks so horrifying you’ll think twice about jumping into the ocean no matter what beach you’re on. The prehistoric shark has remained relatively unevolved, both inside and out, since the Cretaceous Period–a time when the ferocious Tyrannosaurus Rex and other mammoth dinosaurs still roamed the Earth.

Scientifically known as Chlamydoselachus anguineus, the frilled shark was discovered somewhere between 390 and 4,200 feet below the surface–apparently why it is rarely seen despite being around long before humans even existed.

Scientists suggest that the lack of nutrients in deep aquatic environments contributed to the unchanged appearance of the sea creature. The dinosaur-era shark was said to measure five feet in length. However, experts said that it could reach approximately six-and-a-half feet at its longest.

A study of a frilled shark caught off the coast of Surunga Bay revealed its favorite meal. According to the Japanese researchers from the Tokai University in Japan, 61 percent of the frilled shark’s diet is cephalopods, the class of marine animals to which squid and octopus belong.

Furthermore, the study showed that the species have around 42 months of gestation, the longest of any known creature.

Professor Margarida Castro of the University of the Algarve explained that the prehistoric shark got its name from the alleged frilled arrangement of its 300 teeth. Also, unlike other sharks that have separate gills, the frilled shark’s first set of gills stretch all the way across its throat. It has six pairs of gills with frilled edges in total.

Prehistoric shark, frilled shark, caught by fisherman Roman Fedortsov
Prehistoric shark, frilled shark, caught by fisherman Roman Fedortsov in Russia | Atchuup | atchuup.com

It was believed that early sailor stories about sea serpents are inspired by the sightings of the frilled shark and its snake-like movements.

So, yes, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll encounter this prehistoric shark in one of your diving adventures. However, unless we precisely know what creatures lurk beneath the surface and in the great beyond, the ocean remains to be one of the most dangerous places here on our planet.

What’s the chance our technology will keep our species going for 80 million years?

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