A bizarre scary fish that frightened and intrigued a sea fisherman and his captain off the pacific coast of Mexico was not an alien, but just an albino swell shark, experts revealed. The swell shark is a kind of catshark that exists in the subtropical eastern Pacific Ocean.
Being albino explained why it had such strange coloured skin and eyes, marine biologists said.
Earlier this week, an alien-looking fish was caught off the coast of Cabo, northwest Mexico. Its body was entirely pale pink and its eyes a greenish-pink. The man who caught it and the captain of the boat he contracted said that initially they wondered whether it might be some kind of alien because it looked so strange.
At first, the fisherman and his captain wondered whether this was some kind of alien life form, but eventually concluded it must be a shark, given its raspy skin and rows of tiny teeth. (Image: facebook.com/piscessportfishingcabo)
In a Facebook posting, Pisces Sportfishing Fleet wrote that it had met with Captain Jaime Rendon, in charge of a boat called Dr. Pescado, whose client hooked a weird-looking creature approximately one mile off the coast in the Cabo corridor near El Tule, a popular beach with local Mexican families and advanced surfers.
Creature ‘so alien-like’
The client – who had paid Captain Rendon for a day’s sea fishing – dropped down a hook on a 50 pound line, baited with a chunk of skipjack, when he felt a strong tug. After tussling with his catch for about four minutes, the weirdest of all marine creatures was on the surface.
Regarding his client’s reaction, Captain Rendon said:
“He thought it looked like an alien, but guessed it was some kind of shark as it had raspy skin, three rows of tiny teeth and three gill slits on each side of the head (most sharks have 5-7 each side).”
When threatened, the swell shark engorges its stomach with water or air. (Image: facebook.com/piscessportfishingcabo)
“He thought it might be endangered so released it, it then swam off back down to where it had come from.”
“After researching the common opinion is that it is probably a swell shark – easy to see why- this fish fills its stomach with water to enlarge its size to prevent it being swallowed by predators or to deter them.”
Captain Rendon said he had wondered whether it was a swell shark, but had initially ruled out that possibility because of its incredibly-pale colour. Scientists later confirmed in was an albino swell shark.
Albino animals (including humans) and plants have a congenital condition in which they lack pigment in their skin and hair (which are white). Their eyes tend to have a pink colour.
According to dictionary.com, ‘albino’ is: “1. A person with pale skin, light hair, pinkish eyes, and visual abnormalities resulting from a hereditary inability to produce the pigment melanin. 2. An animal or plant with a marked deficiency in pigmentation.”
Swell sharks (Cephaloscyllium ventriosum) are relatively small, inactive sharks that are fairly common off the coast of Southern California (USA) and Baja California (Mexico).
The fish was caught off the coast near El Tule beach, Mexico. The man who caught it wondered whether it might be an endangered species, so he put it back in the water. (Images: Left – facebook.com/piscessportfishingcabo. Right – Google Maps)
They got their name because of their ability, when threatened, to fill their stomach with air or water to about twice their natural size, thus preventing seals and larger sharks from pulling them out from under ledges, rocky reefs or crevices.
When approached by a predator, it sometimes grabs onto its tail with its mouth, making it even harder to pull it out.
They are commonly found in kelp forests with rocky substrates where their drab colours allow them to remain camouflaged.
It is generally a shy and harmless fish, unless aggressively threatened. They are no threat to snorkelers or divers, as long as they are not handled or provoked.
They are nocturnal animals that spend the day sleeping in crevices or caves, and feed on bony fishes, molluscs and crustaceans at night.
The World Conservation Union classifies the swell shark as of Least Concern, meaning its survival status is not under threat of extinction. Fishermen and divers rarely try to catch it because of its poor flesh quality.
Video – Swell Shark
A diver filmed this swell shark at Wood’s Cove, Laguna Beach, California. When approached by divers, swell sharks tend to keep completely still.