Top 10 weirdest Elasmobranchs

1. The Epaulette shark (Hemiscyllium ocellatum) 

Conservation status: least concern (IUCN)

This amazing shark lives in the shallow tidal pools of the Great Barrier Reef- not an easy environment for any animal. When the the tide goes out water oxygen levels reduce, temperature rises and there’s heavy competition for space and food. The Epaulette shark’s solution: walk on land. This remarkable shark ‘walks’ from tidal pool to tidal pool to find food: shrimps, crabs and small bony fishes. Not many animals can tolerate this kind of hypoxia (lack of oxygen), but the Epaulette shark’s ability to shut down non-essential functions and increase blood supply to its brain means it can even survive in total lack of oxygen (anoxia) for up to one hour!

Epaulette-shark-close-up

2. The Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus)

Conservation status: near threatened

This gentle giant can grow up to lengths of 5m and is one of the worlds largest carnivores. Growing at a rate of around 1 cm per year, they are some of the longest-lives creatures in the animal kingdom. Infact, the oldest vertebrate animal was a female Greenland shark- estimated to be around 400 years old!

3. The Atlantic torpedo ray (Tetronarce nobiliana)

Conservation status: data deficient

The Atlantic torpedo ray isn’t just the largest known electric ray, growing up to 6 ft, but also the most powerful. It is capable of generating up to 220 vaults of electricity to defend itself from predators or subdue prey- that’s enough to kill a human!

4. The Megamouth shark (Megachasma pelagios)

Conservation status: least concern

You can see how this beast got it’s name- very little is know about this extremely rare epipelagic species of shark, but scientists hypothesise that it uses its unusually large mouth to feed on krill. It’s also the smallest of the three extant filter feeding sharks, which include the whale shark and the basking shark.

5. The Tasselled wobbegong (Eucrossorhinus dadypogon)

Conservation status: least concern

This species of carpet shark lives in the shallow coral reefs of Australia, New Guinea and the neighbouring islands. It’s weirdest feature is the fringes on its chin, that, along with its colouring, enable it to camouflage to hide from predators and prey.

6. The Frilled shark (Chlamydoselachus anguineus)

Conservation status: least concern

This deep-water monster is one of the oldest species of shark. It’s name comes from the six gill slits on each side of its head that extend to the underside of the body, creating a ‘frilly collar’.

7. The Giant manta ray (Manta birostris)

Conservation status: vulnerable

The Giant manta ray is just that- giant. This beautiful animal is the largest of all the known rays and one of the largest elasmobranchs, growing up to lengths of 9.1 meters across! Despite its enormous size, giant manta rays are able to jump clean out the water and land with a loud splash. This species has even been recorded diving up to depths of 1,000 m!

8. Javanese cownose ray (Rhinoptera javanica)

Conservation status: vulnerable

These weird looking rays have their unusual nose to thank for their name, which can be characterised by an indented forehead and a double-lobed snout. Cownose rays inhabit coral reefs, estuaries and inshore coastal waters and can be found in very large numbers- up to 500 in a group!

9. The Shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus)

Conservation status: vulnerable

Although this shark doesn’t look weird, it can do some pretty unusual stuff. The Shortfin mako is thought to be the fastest shark, reaching speeds of up to 70 km per hour and even able to jump up to 6 m out of the water!

10. The Goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni)

Conservation status: least concern

Probably the weirdest-looking elasmobranch on this list, the Goblin shark has the ability to extend its jaw and trap prey, just watch for yourself…

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