Friday, December 10, 2010

December 10, 2010 : Kitefin Shark

Kitefin Shark

The kitefin shark or seal shark (Dalatias licha) is a species of dogfish shark in the family Dalatiidae, and the only species in its genus. It is found sporadically around the world, usually close to the sea floor at depths of 200–600 m (660–2,000 ft). With a sizable oil-filled liver to maintain neutral buoyancy, this shark is able to cruise slowly through the water while expending little energy. The kitefin shark has a slender body with a very short, blunt snout, large eyes, and thick lips. Its teeth are highly differentiated between the upper and lower jaws, with the upper teeth small and narrow and the lower teeth large, triangular, and serrated. Its typical length is 1.0–1.4 m (3.3–4.6 ft).

Armed with large teeth and a strong bite, the kitefin shark is a powerful, solitary predator that takes many different types of prey, ranging from bony fishes, sharks and rays, to cephalopods, crustaceans, polychaete worms, siphonophores, and possibly carrion. It also takes bites out of animals larger than itself, similar to its smaller relative, the cookiecutter shark (Isistius brasiliensis). This shark is aplacental viviparous and gives birth to 10–14 young. The kitefin shark is fished commercially for its meat, skin, and liver oil, primarily by Portugal and Japan. A fishery targeting this species existed off the Azores from the 1970s to the 1990s, but collapsed due to overfishing and falling liver oil prices; the rapid depletion of the Azores stock is often cited as an example of the susceptibility of deep-sea sharks to human exploitation. The low reproductive rate of this species renders it susceptible to overfishing and, coupled with known population declines, has led it to be assessed as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

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