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What is the frilled shark?

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Quick Answer

Reaching a maximum length of about 6 feet, the frilled shark is an eel-like species that is poorly known to science. The sharks derive their name from gills that feature “frilly” extensions. A primitive species, frilled sharks have six pairs of gill slits, rather than five, as seen in most other shark species. Frilled sharks live in deep water, and they are only rarely seen near the surface.

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Frilled sharks do not represent a threat to people, even though they possess about 300 teeth. Most specimens known to science have originated in the deep seas near Japan. They have been captured as deep as 4,200 feet below the surface, where little light penetrates. However, the stomach contents of some captured frilled sharks indicates that they likely forage for food in the mid-depths.

Although they have never been observed in their natural habitat, many scientists think that these sharks hover in the water and strike quickly at passing prey. They appear to primarily consume various squid species, but they also eat typical fish.

Because they live in the cold ocean depths where food is scarce, frilled sharks have very slow life cycles. They are suspected of having very long gestation periods that may take over three years to complete.

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