Sharks are considered to be the deadliest creatures in the sea and their looks strike fear in the hearts of marine animals as well as human swimmers. That is, except for a species that’s so ugly and out of shape, it’s nicknamed the sofa shark. One of these rare toothy blobs appeared recently off the west coast of Scotland, scaring no one.
This ugly shark is more properly known as the false catshark or Psuedotrakias microdon. Normally found in the deep ocean, marine biologists tagging fish for Marine Scotland caught this one off the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides. Only one other false catshark has ever been seen in these waters and that was 10 years ago. Although they can reach 3 meters (10 feet) in length, this one was a 2 meter, 60 kg (132 pound) female specimen.
While not the prettiest shark, the false catshark is definitely one of the most interesting. A member of the ground shark family (the hammerhead is a cousin), it got its name from Portuguese shark scientist Félix de Brito Capelo who thought it had eyes like an actual catshark.
One-quarter of the false catshark’s total weight is a massive liver filled with shark liver oil that helps control its buoyancy. Besides bony fish, they will eat just about anything. One specimen’s stomach contained potatoes, a plastic bag and an aluminum can.
Perhaps the oddest trait of the false catshark is in the area of reproduction. The bigger and stronger of the shark’s eggs consume the weaker ones, a form of cannibalism known as intrauterine oophagy that is found in a few shark, snake and wasp species.
While rarely seen, false catsharks are found in deep waters in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. And despite its nickname and ugly features, it’s willing to pose for clear and close-up pictures, unlike another more famous Scottish marine monster.