There is a whole lot to be afraid of in the deep sea, where the sunlight barely hits and the unforgiving terrain gives birth to some of the gnarliest creatures humanity has ever witnessed. As of 2022, less than five per cent of the Earth’s oceans have been explored and scientists are still actively discovering what lurks in the dark.
But occasionally, some deep sea creatures are pulled to the surface—in turn, spooking everyone who sets their eyes on them. Such is the case with Trapman Bermagui, a Sydney-based fisherman who recently caught a lifeless sea monster from 2,133 feet underwater off the coast of Australia.
With bulging, glassy eyes peering at the camera, the bizarre creature was found with its mouth curled upwards into a terrifying smile. Its small row of teeth also protruded out from its jaw—featuring a pointed nose resembling a dog.
“The face of a deep sea rough skin shark,” Bermagui captioned a post featuring images of the predator, which has since gone viral on both Facebook and Instagram.
As soon as netizens caught a glimpse of the shark, they quickly dubbed it the “stuff of nightmares” while some joked that it had just gotten its braces removed. “I can’t tell if he has good dental hygiene or if his dentist yells at him,” a user commented. “Looks like Chum from Finding Nemo,” another wrote, comparing the creature to the hyperactive mako shark who is part of the ‘Fish-Friendly Sharks’ support group in the animated movie.
Well, I don’t know about you guys, but Bermagui’s wild catch just looks like a thermocol shark model a soccer mom would make for their kid’s science project to me.
That being said, when most of Bermagui’s followers guessed that the deep sea animal was a cookie cutter shark, the fisherman clarified that it was a species of endeavour dog shark. “Totally not a cookie cutter. It’s a rough skin shark, also known as a species of endeavour dog shark,” he replied in the comment section, later sharing an image of a cookie cutter shark’s mouth to point out the difference.
“These sharks are common in depths greater than 600 metres. We catch them in the wintertime usually,” he continued, adding that his recent catch weighs about 33 pounds and is five feet long.
Dean Grubbs, associate director of research at the Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory, also weighed in on the unlikely predator. In an interview with Newsweek, the expert explained that the species appears to be Centroscymnus owstoni, also called the roughskin dogfish.
“In my deep sea research, we have caught quite a few of them in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Bahamas,” Grubbs said. “Ours have come from depths of 740 to 1,160 metres, so a bit deeper than this report. They are in the family Somniosidae, the Sleeper Sharks, the same family of the Greenland Shark, but obviously a much smaller species.”
That’s great! Now put it back.
Every year, Discovery Channel runs a week-long celebration of our favourite ocean predator: sharks. Termed ‘Shark Week’, the channel showcases these infamous creatures in all their glory on various programmes created especially for the event. This year, biologist Forrest Gallante hosted Island of the Walking Sharks and captured some never before seen footage of—you guessed it—walking sharks.
Now don’t panic, we’re not talking about Jaws popping out of the ocean for a morning jog here. The predator in question is the rare epaulette shark, scientific name Hemiscyllium Ocellatum, and is usually a cream or brown colour with spots. This little guy can grow up to just over a foot in length, so there’s no danger of it actually chasing you down the beach.
However, the epaulette can survive up to an hour out of water as it forages for food in tide pools and uses its fins to ‘walk’ across the rocks.
Gallante was ecstatic after witnessing the event. “This is the first time in history one of the Papuan species of epaulettes has been documented walking,” he said.
“This is so incredible. All traits are selected for, when it allows a species to survive better and eke out an environment where they’re safe and can get food…But once they’re done, they’re trapped. What epaulettes have learned to do is climb up in the reef and plop themselves in the next tide pool.”
Epaulette sharks only feast on worms, bony fish and crustaceans, so there’s no need to worry about one of us becoming a tasty snack for them. That being said, however, future generations might have to watch out as these walking sharks have the potential to evolve and head to shores worldwide with rising temperatures. But as of today, it’s safe to say that the breed is the last one on the list you should be worried about.
Gallante also received mountains of praise on social media after the programme was broadcast, with one fan writing, “@ForrestGalante once again, Forrest has my fav show on shark week. That was awesome. Thank you!” and another saying: “Dude, this is a show I didn’t think I’d like that is absolutely captivating!!!”
Gallante himself admitted that he ‘totally freaked out’ when he witnessed the world-first scene play out in front of him and has since urged people to catch up on the show on Discovery.