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. It is the newest and rarest species found off the U.S. coast.

Surprised scientists have found a tiny, young version of the extraordinarily rare shark. It was fished out of the deep Gulf of Mexico in 2010 with lots of other creatures during 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. It has been sitting in a Russian museum ever since.

This pocket shark was a male. It was maybe a few weeks old, about 5.5 inches long. Strangely, this type of shark has two pockets next to its front fins. The fins' purpose is not known. It's not quite like a kangaroo. That animal 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. He 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. That is 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. 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. 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. The vessel was 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 142 times


COMMENTS (204)
  • rhiannag-Goo
    4/30/2015 - 09:04 a.m.

    One of the few pocket sharks was found off of the US coast. The text states that it was fished out of the deep Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The text also states that one other pocket shark was found 36 years ago in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Peru and has been sitting in a Russian museum ever since. The evidence from the text illustrates that they kept the shark in the freezer to keep it from rotting and smelling bad. If they had kept it out, they would've had to get rid of it in a week.

  • erinbundy-Goo
    4/30/2015 - 09:06 a.m.

    Scientists found a rare breed of shark about 190 miles off the Louisiana Coast. The text states that the scientist found this shark in February of 2010, which is a little over five years prior to this date. The text also states that "It's a small miracle that the shark was not thrown away. A couple of times, the lab with the freezer lost power," The evidence from the text suggests that scientists were required to freeze the sharks body in order to preserve it so they could eventually identify it.

  • Maxc-Pav
    4/30/2015 - 10:03 a.m.

    I got to be honest, that is a really cute shark. I mean, it's small, it looks like a whale, it's got little pockets, it's just adorable. I hope this will become more common and less...dead...because it would be nice. I can imagine a plush of it would sell quick, little plush pockets, it's adorable :3 If I could, I would get one.

  • Lindsaya-Pav
    4/30/2015 - 10:04 a.m.

    this shark is so adorable. it's also very unique, for it's a very small shark with pockets by its fins. i hope more of its species is found.

  • Meghans-Pav
    4/30/2015 - 10:06 a.m.

    The pocket shark is so cute and it is crazy that they are so small. It is unbelievable that scientists just discovered this shark, so many more unknown species of animals could be swimming in the ocean and we would have no idea. By discovering more species of animals and searching through the ocean people can learn more and more about our world. The pocket shark is just the start of the discovery of many more sea animals.

  • Reillym-Pav
    4/30/2015 - 10:06 a.m.

    This is so cute! It makes me want to have a pet shark. I wonder how many of these there are in the world.
    At first i thought this was a mini whale. I would love to own one of these.

  • Miah-Pav
    4/30/2015 - 10:07 a.m.

    This creature is amazing. It's so rare and i hope scientists discover more of that species. It has a pocket by its fins and is only 5 inches. How cute.

  • Annamariea-Pav
    4/30/2015 - 10:09 a.m.

    I think that it is interesting that a new kind of shark was found, and that it is so tiny. It is also interesting how it is still a question as to why the shark has two pockets. It would be cool to find more of them!

  • Time-Pav
    4/30/2015 - 10:13 a.m.

    wow this thing is so cute! I wish that I could have it for a pet! It is adorable. I wish that I could buy it at petco!

  • Miag-Pav
    4/30/2015 - 10:14 a.m.

    I find it so fascinating that there are only two known sharks of this species ever seen by man. It just goes to show how little we know about marine and aquatic species, and how much more we have to discover.

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