Does anything in 2020 surprise us anymore? Maybe this will. Scientists have recently discovered a skinless shark living in waters deep in the northeast Atlantic Ocean.
Did You Say a Skinless Shark?
This blackmouth catshark was caught in a net off the coast of South Sardinia. The strange creature has no skin-like structure, including an epidermis, stratum laxum, dermal denticles, and no teeth.
“The first reaction was a big surprise,” said lead author on the study, Antonello Mulas. “Since the specimen was so strange, at first, we checked for a possible report of a new species for the Mediterranean, but it was clear that this was not the case.”
Shark’s skin is responsible for many different functions that keep the animal alive. The outermost layer consists of tooth-like dermal denticles that protect the shark from other predators, as well as their environment. The skin also releases a mucus that is part of the shark’s immune system. In addition, the mucus prevents infectious microbes from hurting its host.
This blackmouth catshark has thin, smooth, and translucent skin. Blackmouth catsharks are abundant but this is the first one without its skin.
“The malformation was even more severe than we thought but, at the same time, the stomach contents and the vertebral centra analysis showed us that this catshark was perfectly capable to feed on its typical prey and that, according to the species growth curve, it followed a normal growth,” said Mulas.
Blackmouth catshark’s diet includes cephalopods, invertebrates, and small fish.
The catshark was missing its teeth, so it swallowed its prey whole. In fact, the researchers said that despite missing major necessary body parts, this shark was in good health.
Mulas concludes, saying, “Was this malformation ‘natural’ or was it induced by some teratogenic factor-like ocean acidification, temperature rise, or pollution? It is very difficult to answer but, considering that malformations in sharks are being reported more frequently, it is very interesting to investigate.”