Frightening alien fish identified as albino swell shark

A frightening ‘alien’ fish that was pulled from the sea earlier this month has been identified as an albino swell shark, a type of catshark found in subtropical eastern Pacific ocean which can swim down to a depth of 460 metres. This particular specimen was an albino, hence the unusual colour of its skin and eyes.

Earlier this week, the albino swell shark, a pink and white creature with alien-type features, caught off the coast of Cabo, north-west Mexico, triggered a debate about its identity, with some people wondering whether it might have originated from another planet.

Albino Swell SharkWhen Captain Rendon and his client saw the creature for the first time they were shocked. Initially wondering whether it could be an alien, they eventually concluded it must have been some type of shark. (Image:

Pisces Sportfishing Fleet wrote in Facebook that it had met with Jaime Rendon, Captain of the boat called Dr. Pescado, whose client caught the strange-looking creature about one mile off the shore in the Cabo corridor at a place called El Tule.

Looked like an alien

The client – somebody who had paid for a fishing outing – dropped down a hook baited with a chunk of skipjack on a 40 pound line, when he felt a hard tug. After a 4-minute tussle, the bizarre creature was on the surface.

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).”

Albino swell shark with pale skinThis swell shark has albinism, caused by a reduction or absence of the pigment melanin. (Image:

“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 agreed that it was probably a swell shark, but could not understand why it had such an incredibly-pale colour. Scientists later said it was an *albino swell shark.

* An albino is an animal (could be a human) that has a congenital absence of pigment in the skin and hair (which are white). The lack of pigment in the eyes usually makes them look pink.

About swell sharks

Most swell sharks grow to about 39 inches (100 centimetres) in length. They can double the size of their body by drinking loads of water to prevent predators such as larger sharks and seals from pulling them out from rocky reefs, in crevices and under ledges.

Albino swell fish held up for photoCaptain Rendon’s client wondered whether the animal might be endangered, so he placed it back in the sea. (Image:

Swell sharks are nocturnal marine animals, sleeping in caves and crevices during the day. They feed on crustaceans, molluscs and bony fishes.

It sometimes grabs onto its tail with its mouth in a ring shape to prevent predators from attacking it.

They are completely harmless to humans, and generally remain entirely motionless when divers approach.
According to the World Conservation Union, this species is of Least Concern, because divers and fishermen rarely try to catch it, due to its poor flesh quality.

Video – Swell Shark Catalina Island

A diver films a swell shark off Catalina Island, California. As often occurs when approached by human divers, the fish remains completely still.