Taiwanese Scientists Find Rare ‘Alien-Looking’ Viper Sharks in Pacific Ocean
Taiwanese scientists recently caught a few of these viper sharks, extremely rare creatures in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Taitung County, Taiwan News reports.
This freakish-looking fish — a rare species of dogfish shark in the Etmopteridae family — has gained quite a buzz online for its unmistakable resemblance to the terrifying monster from the “Alien” movies.
Much like the killer alien from the sci-fi horror film, the viper shark has fang-like teeth and large jaws which can extend beyond its mouth. They also have light-emitting spots on their underbellies, and measure from 26.2 to 32.6 centimeters (10.3 to 12.8 inches) in length.
Its generic name, Trigonognathus, derives from the Greek word trigonon (triangle), and gnathus (jaw), while its specific name, kabeyai, honors Hiromichi Kabeya, the captain of the Seiryo-Maru, which caught the first specimen.
Viper sharks use their extending jaws to seize their prey, impale them with their teeth and then rapidly swallow them whole with their huge gape.
According to Taiwan’s Fisheries Research Institute, they found five of the glow-in-the-dark sharks during a routine survey of the area. The first specimens of the viper dogfish shark were two immature males caught off southern Japan in 1986. So far, a few specimen of the species have only been found off the coasts of Japan, Hawaii, and Taiwan.
In describing the sharks, the research team wrote, “The most obvious feature is the needle-shaped teeth, like snake-like fangs; this is also the origin of viper shark name.”
While little is known about the sharks, it is believed that they tend to migrate from 300 to 400 meters (984 to 1,312 feet) deep underwater during the day and then climb up to 150 meters (492 feet) deep at night. The recently captured specimens were caught at a depth of 350 meters (1,148 feet).
Four of them were already dead upon capture, while the only living shark, which was placed in cool seawater, died the next day.