Species of shark thought to be extinct shows up in the last place scientists expected

Species of shark thought to be extinct shows up in the last place scientists expected
Shark Conservation 2015 post on the surprise discovery of a Ganges River Shark at a fish market. (Credit: Facebook screenshot)

CHARLOTTE, NC (Mark Price/The Charlotte Observer) - A rare species of shark not seen in more than a decade has shocked researchers by showing up in the last place they expected: For sale as meat at a fish market.

The Journal of Fish Biology reported the odd discovery earlier this month, noting 8-foot, 7-inch Ganges River shark was spotted at a dock-side fish market in Mumbai, India. The sharks are often mistaken for bull sharks, say experts.

The female carcass was photographed in early 2016, but it wasn't identified until months later by shark researchers with the Gulf Elasmo Project, a shark conservation effort, according to the Journal of Fish Biology.

Ganges River sharks are considered a critically endangered species. They are so rare that there has been no confirmed record of the species for a decade – and very few ever, reports New Scientist. Until the 1990s, the Ganges River shark was known only from three museum specimens collected in the 19th century, reports MysteriousUniverse.org.

Scientists recorded and measured the sharks that were caught and sold at the Sassoon Docks in Mumbai, reported the International Business Times. But it became challenging to take tissue samples from the fish because of how quickly traders and fisherman had processed the animal, the site reported.

Rima Jabado, founder of the Gulf Elasmo Project, told New Scientists he and some colleagues were able to tell that the specimen was a Ganges shark based on the creature's physical features. It had small eyes, round snout, and fin with characteristics exclusive to the species, New Scientist reported.

Jabado told New Scientist Ganges sharks "have never really been seen in the western Indian Ocean."

The researchers were not able to determine where sellers picked up the shark, reported Techtimes.com. However, they suspect it was caught somewhere along the Arabian Sea, the site reported.

Jabado and colleagues said that the incident shows that there is a need improve informational campaigns to educate people so they would recognize animals considered as endangered species such as the elusive Ganges shark. This includes making the fishing industry aware of the shark's endangered status.

"There are so few specimens of river sharks from around the world that pretty much all the information we have is based on either preserved specimens from the last century, or from jaws that were found at some point in remote villages and were identified as river sharks," Jabado told the TechTimes.com.