The Scottish Shark Tagging Programme (SSTP) announced recently that a false catshark, sometimes known as a sofa shark, was captured off the coast of Barra by marine scientists. Experts said it is the first time that the fish has been confirmed in the region, and despite its strange appearance, the shark is not considered dangerous to humans or native fish species.
“Finding strange and unusual looking elasmobranchs in the deep sea is not uncommon but following a recent deep sea survey scientists from Marine Scotland noticed a species that they had not seen before,” SSTP stated on its website.
“This is not a species that has previously been found in Scottish waters and is a welcome addition to our list!” the organization added.
The sofa shark is a strange critter with many unique characteristics—including incredibly soft skin and a massive liver for its size. Scientists gave the false catshark its nickname not because it is shaped like a sofa, but rather because the shark is sluggish and has a lumpy body with weak muscles. This may be due to the fact that the sofa shark spends most of its time eating off the sea floor.
Its large liver—about 25 percent of its body weight—keeps it buoyant and the shark is known to have taken a liking to human garbage. Whether they pick it off the sea floor or near the surface, examinations of sofa sharks have found that the critters will eat just about anything.
According to some researchers, sofa sharks had been spotted in the waters near Scotland before but never confirmed.
“I was pretty surprised when it landed in our boat. We hadn’t seen one in ten years,” Francis Neat, one of the researchers with Marine Scotland that found the shark, told the Daily Mail. “It’s not unique to Scotland but it’s certainly interesting to look at—it’s a big and baggy looking creature.”
Neat said they released the fish after a quick examination.
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