Scientists Discover Second Specimen of Pocket Shark

Posted on April 23, 2015

Examination of a pocket shark

Scientists have discovered the second possible specimen of pocket shark (Mollisquama sp.) ever found. The tiny shark was discovered by NOAA researchers. The specimen is 5.5 inches long (about 14 centimeters). It is small enough to fit in your pocket, but the species is actually named pocket shark for an orifice located behind its pectoral fin.

The researchers say the newly discovered pocket shark is a male that was recently born. It was collected about 190 miles offshore Louisiana during a 2010 mission by the NOAA Ship Pisces. The pocket shark is now part of the Royal D. Suttkus Fish Collection at Tulane University's Biodiversity Research Institute

Mark Grace of NOAA Fisheries' Pascagoula, Miss., Laboratory, lead author of the new study, says in a statement, "The pocket shark we found was only 5 and a half inches long, and was a recently born male. Discovering him has us thinking about where mom and dad may be, and how they got to the Gulf. The only other known specimen was found very far away, off Peru, 36 years ago."

Illustration of a Pocket Shark


This specimen of pocket shark has a series of glands along the abdomen that were not previously noted in the 1979 specimen. Genetic analysis by NOAA Ocean Service genetics expert Gavin Naylor indicates that pocket sharks are closely related to the kitefin and cookie cutter species, members of the shark family Dalatiidae. The researchers say pocket sharks may remove an oval shaped plug of flesh from prey when they are hungry, like other Dalatiidae sharks.

A research paper (PDF) on the discovery of the pocket shark was published in the journal Zootaxa.

Photo: Michael Doosey, Tulane University
Illustration: NOAA FishWatch.gov