A strange deep-sea shark with bulging eyes and a bewildering human smile was recently washed up from deep off the coast of Australia.
Shark experts aren’t sure what species the creepy-looking creature might belong to, adding to the mystery surrounding the unusual specimen.
A deep-sea fisherman, known online as Trapman Bermagui, caught the mysterious shark from a depth of about 650 meters (2,130 feet) off the coast of New South Wales in Australia.
The fisherman later shared a snapshot of the deep-sea specimen on Facebook on September 12. The image shows the dead shark’s rough, sandpaper-like skin, large, pointed snout, large, bulging eyes, and exposed pearly white.
The shark’s unusual features quickly caught the attention of other Facebook users, who were amazed or terrified by the creature.
One commenter wrote that the specimen was “the stuff of nightmares”, while another wrote that the creature’s “evil grin” gave them “great chills”.
Other people joked about the animal’s appearance, speculating that the shark was wearing “false teeth” or that it was smiling after its braces were finally removed.
Commentators also speculated as to which species the shark belonged to. The most common assumption was that the specimen was a cookie cutter shark (Isistius brasiliensis), which gets its name from the distinctive bite marks it leaves on larger animals. Other guesses included a goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni) or a kind of lantern shark (Etmopteridae).
However, Trapman Bermagui disagreed with online commentators. “It’s totally not a cookie cutter,” the fisherman told Newsweek. “It’s a rough-skinned shark, also known as a kind of shark fish.”
Endeavor dogfish (Centrophorus moluccensis) are a type of gobbler shark, a group of deep-sea sharks found throughout the world, according to the Shark Research Institute.
But some shark experts were not convinced by the fisherman’s identification.
“Looks like a deep sea kitefin shark to me (dalatias licha), which are known from Australian waters,” Christopher Lowe, director of the Shark Lab at California State University, Long Beach, told Newsweek.
Though it’s hard to know for sure without being able to see the entire specimen, he added.
Dean Grubbs, a marine biologist and shark expert at Florida State University, offered a different conclusion.
Grubbs suspected that the dead shark was a rough-skinned dogfish (Centroscymnus owstonii), a type of sleeper shark in the same family as the Greenland sharks (sleepy microcephaly), according to Newsweek.
It’s also possible the shark belongs to a species never seen before, Lowe said. “We discover new species of deep-sea sharks all the time and many of them look very similar to each other.”
However, other experts believe that Trapman Bermagui may have hit the nail on the head after all.
“It’s a swallow shark,” Brit Finucci, a fisheries scientist at New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research who specializes in deep-sea sharks, told Live Science in an email. However, it is not clear exactly which species of this group it belongs to, he added.
Charlie Huveneers, a shark scientist at Flinders University in Australia, told LiveScience that he agreed with Finucci’s identification and that the animal was most likely a swallow shark.
“In the past, bearded vulture sharks were targeted by fisheries for their liver oil in New South Wales,” Finucci said.
Most gulpers are “highly sensitive to overfishing” and as a result “some species are now highly threatened and protected in Australia,” it added.
This article was originally published by Live Science. Read the original article here.