Is there such a thing as a cute shark? A photo of a rare pocket shark in October 2013 in Belle Chasse, La., taken out of the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, and discovered in a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration freezer and identified as the rare species in 2013 (AP photos)
Is there such a thing as a cute shark?
Lexile

Think Jaws meets a kangaroo, with maybe a touch of cute kitten and you've got the aptly named pocket shark, the newest and rarest species found off the U.S. coast.

Surprised scientists found a tiny, young version of the extraordinarily rare shark that was fished out of the deep Gulf of Mexico in 2010 with lots of other creatures in a government research trip. The dead specimen spent more than three years in a giant freezer waiting to be identified.

It turned out to be only the second of its species ever seen. The first pocket shark was found 36 years ago in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Peru and it's been sitting in a Russian museum ever since.

This pocket shark was a male, maybe a few weeks old, about 5.5 inches long. Strangely, this type of shark has two pockets next to its front fins; their purpose is not known. It's not quite like a kangaroo, which uses its pouch to carry young, but few species have pockets this large about 4 percent of the shark's body.

"It's cute," said Tulane University biologist Michael Doosey, who co-authored a study in a zoological journal identifying the shark. "It almost looks like a little whale."

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries biologist Mark Grace has spent more than 30 years going through bags upon bags of fish to identify them. It took him more than three years to get near the end of the freezer, when he plopped a bag on the table and let it thaw.

"I wasn't really sure what it was," Grace said. "That pocket over on the pectoral fin, I had never seen anything like that on a shark."

It's a small miracle that the shark was not thrown away because a couple of times, the lab with the freezer lost power.

Once identified, the shark was shipped to New York and France for high-tech examinations that wouldn't puncture the specimen.

The shark also has unusual belly patches not seen in most sharks. The only other pocket shark was a female adult about 17 inches long; it is believed that adult females may be larger than males.

But the truly strange thing about this species is its twin pockets. While no one knows what they are for, Grace and Doosey speculated that they may secrete some kind of glowing fluid or pheromones.

The Gulf specimen has umbilical scars, showing he's probably a few weeks old, Grace said. Because of that, they think he was born in the Gulf. He was captured in February 2010 by the ship Pisces about 190 miles off the Louisiana coast.

"There's others" out there, Grace said. "We just haven't caught them yet."

Critical thinking challenge: Why was the shark kept frozen?

Assigned 19 times


COMMENTS (43)
  • hannaht-Goo
    4/30/2015 - 09:07 a.m.

    The shark was kept frozen. The text states, "Surprised scientists found a tiny, young version of the extraordinarily rare shark that was fished out of the deep Gulf of Mexico in 2010 with lots of other creatures in a government research trip." The text also states, "The dead specimen spent more than three years in a giant freezer waiting to be identified." The shark was kept frozen for so long because when they caught the shark they didn't know how to identify it so they kept it frozen for further explanation. The evidence from this text proves how the testing is done to an unidentified creature.

  • ethano-Goo
    4/30/2015 - 09:08 a.m.

    The shark was kept frozen to keep its DNA and insides in tack without decaying. The text states that the shark spent nearly three years in the back of the freezer waiting to be identified. If the shark was sitting outside the freezer for three years then the body would have decayed and broken down to the point where scientists could no longer use it. The text also states that the shark was captured in 2010 so the scientists needed a place to store the shark they couldn't just let it sit out and decay on their desk. These examples from the text are why the shark had to be kept in the freezer.

  • nathang-Goo
    4/30/2015 - 09:09 a.m.

    The shark was kept frozen. The text states that they were trying to preserve it so they could examine the rare shark. The text also states that they had other fish that had been frozen longer that they needed to examine. The evidence from the text shows that the shark need to be kept frozen so that it doesn't rot and they can examine it even after 3 years.

  • clairedoucet
    4/30/2015 - 12:56 p.m.

    Wow! This is like a new twist on a shark it is actually really cute and looks harmless. I wonder how many of these exist in the world? I tried googling it, but no one really knows much about this shark. Since the article says that the first pocket shark was found 36 years ago, that could mean that this may not be a new species at all, it could have been around for a really long time just no one knew about it. I hope scientists learn more about this so called pocket shark because that would be really exciting if we could have a new type of shark.

  • Kae-Lynn.Hiben10
    4/30/2015 - 12:56 p.m.

    I was very fascinated with this piece. I started becoming curious
    if Canada had sharks,so I did some research. According to atlanticsharks.org,Canada has had over 21 species of sharks spotted. I found this very interesting, it also made me wonder what was the largest shark on earth. It turns out there was a shark that use to be over 60 feet long and it was called a Megalodon Shark,which is now extinct.In conclusion, sharks are extraordinary and I think I'd like to learn more about them, and I think you should too.

  • GigiSylvester-Ste
    4/30/2015 - 01:02 p.m.

    omg, it's adorable! I really want to get one, and keep her as a pet. When i get one, I'm going to name it penelope.

  • ShawnaWeiser-Ste
    4/30/2015 - 01:06 p.m.

    Many people would be in love with this shark. I would not though. I absolutely hate sharks especially this one. It will trick people into believing its cute but its actually a killer.

  • TehyaWhite-Ste
    4/30/2015 - 01:08 p.m.

    It was kept frozen to preserve it because they can't find many more. However, I wish they would find and catch more because I want one as a pet! Sharks in general are my favorite and I think this one is so cute.

  • ShaniaWentz-Ste
    4/30/2015 - 01:18 p.m.

    I think that sharks can be cute. Honestly, any animal can be cute. Most people just fail to realize that because they focus on the animal's dangers or how many people they have killed. Animals deserve chances!

  • makaylar-Che
    4/30/2015 - 01:48 p.m.

    because they wanted the shark to have a fin so it can swim but they said the freezer lost power a couple of times but the shark never died and its still growing as it should and I think it should be dead but it isn't and I'm glad its still alive because we still want sharks even though they are dangerous but they are going instinct so we need as many sharks as possible because the food cycle will never be the same because we lost a species of animals or mammals what ever they are called but we need them some people love them some people don't so we have to care for them as if they were our child so we have to love them to.

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