The Shark Pup Hatching, from bioGraphic

Newly hatched shark pup, by Jordi Chias in bioGraphic.

HERE’S A REMARKABLE PHOTO OF A SHARK PUP HATCHING, published in the terrific science magazine bioGraphic. It’s a small spotted catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula), caught just after its emergence from its egg casing.

That’s its name – small spotted catshark – but the little shark has other common names, including lesser spotted dogfish. Recreational diver are not so likely to see one. S. canicula is a bottom-dweller at depths from 30 to 300 feet/10 to 300 meters in the northeast Atlantic and as deep as 1,300 feet/400 meters in the Mediterranean.

You’re definitely unlikely to see a shark pup hatching. You may have seen its egg capsules, often referred to as mermaid’s purses. According to the Encyclopedia of Life, they’re transparent and generally attached to some solid, like a rock, a wreck or perhaps seaweed.

THE PHOTOGRAPHER’S SHARK PUP HATCHING TALE

The backstory on the shark pup hatching shot by photographer Jordi Chias is almost as remarkable as the image itself. Chias spotted the egg on the ocean floor at 80 feet/25 meters in the Balearic Sea (off the Mediterranean  coast of northeastern Spain) some five months before the hatching.

The length of time it takes for a small spotted catshark (that’s its name,to hatch ranges from five to 11 months, depending on the water temperature. Consequently, Chias returned to it regularly and spent a great deal of time in chilly water at 80 feet without being sure when it would hatch.

Finally, the day arrived. “When I arrived late in the afternoon of the day of the hatching,” he says in the bioGraphic article, “the shark already had its head out. I waited  more than an hour, without moving, until it started to wriggle free.”

An adult Scyliorhinus_canicula photographed at an aquarium in Switzerland.

THREE INCHES TO THREE FEET

At hatching, the catshark is only about three inches long. Adults can grow up to as long as three feet. They’re largely bottom-dwellers, hunkering down during the day and cruising the sandy bottom at night seeking crustaceans, mollusks and small fish.

S. canicula is most commonly a fish of the Mediterranean and the northeast and eastern Atlantic, from Norway in the north to North Africa.

As bottom dwellers, they are vulnerable to being bycatch by trawlers’ using bottom nets to catch other species. However, most are thrown back, bioGraphic notes.

PRINCIPAL SOURCES:  “Swimming with Shark Pups,” biographic; “Scyliorhinus canicula,” Encyclopedia of Life.

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