I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase that “sharks are living dinosaurs.” And whether you agree with that or not, you gotta admit they have been around for a long time. All we mostly have to learn about ancient sharks are their teeth, if we’re lucky, since they are so good at fossilizing.
Today, we want to introduce you to the fossil shark (Hemipristis elongata), which is a still VERY MUCH ALIVE animal. They are a species of weasel shark in the Hemigaleidae family, and the only extant member of the Hemipristis genus. Fossil sharks are a copper-grey color on top that gives way to a creamy underbelly with no other prominent markings. They have a long, broadly rounded snout and are sometimes feared because of their large teeth. Speaking of teeth, they are also known as the snaggletooth shark!
This species may not be around for much longer if we continue to put unsustainable fishery pressure on their populations in their tropical Indo-West Pacific range. It seems that they grow and mature quickly, so they could be okay with sustainable fishing practices – which is good since it is commonly landed throughout their shallow (down to 130 m) range for their meat, fins, and liver. However, many unmanaged net and trawl fisheries occur throughout most of its range (except Australia). Because of this, they seem to be over-exploited, and catch numbers are declining, hence the species is assessed as Vulnerable (VU). In Australian waters, they are suspected to be ‘Least Concern’ due to well-managed fisheries and low catches.
Fossil sharks are a largely coastal species, found inshore and offshore on the continental and insular shelves, these are their hunting grounds for their fave prey: sharks, rays, bony fishes, and cephalopods. They are viviparous.
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TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
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