A strange deep-sea shark with bulging eyes and an unsettling, human-like smile was recently pulled from the depths off the coast of Australia.
Shark experts aren’t sure exactly what species the creepy creature might belong to, adding to the mystery surrounding the unusual specimen.
A deep-sea fisherman, who goes by the name Trapman Bermagui online, reeled in the mystery shark from a depth of about 2,130 feet (650 meters) off the coast of New South Wales in Australia.
The fisherman later shared a screenshot of the deep-water sample on September 12 on Facebook. The image shows the dead shark’s rough, sandpaper-like skin, large pointed snout, large bulging eyes and exposed pearly whites.
The shark’s unusual features quickly caught the attention of other Facebook users, who were either amazed or horrified 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 “big creeps.”
Others joked about the animal’s appearance, suggesting the shark was wearing “false teeth” or that it was smiling after its braces were finally removed.
Commentators also speculated on what species the shark belonged to. The most common guess was that the specimen was a cookiecutter shark (Isistius brasiliensis), named for the distinctive bite marks it leaves on larger animals. Other speculations included a goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni) or a kind of lantern shark (Ethmopteridae).
However, Trapman Bermagui disagreed with online commentators. “They’re not cookies at all,” the fisherman told Newsweek. “It’s a rough skin shark, also known as a type of effort dogfish.”
Endeavor dogfish (Centrophorus moluccensis) is a type of gulper shark, a group of deep-sea sharks found around the world, according to the Shark Research Institute.
But some shark experts were not convinced by the fisherman’s identity.
“Looks like a deep sea kitefin shark to me (Dalatia likha), which are known in the waters off Australia,” Christopher Lowe, director of the Shark Lab at California State University, Long Beach, told Newsweek.
Although, it’s hard to say for sure without being able to see the entire sample, he added.
Dean Grubbs, a marine biologist and shark expert at Florida State University, came to a different conclusion.
Grubbs suspected that the dead shark was a roughskin dogfish (Centroscymnus owstonii), a type of sleeper shark from the same family as the Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus), according to Newsweek.
It’s also possible the shark is of a never-before-seen species, Lowe said. “We are constantly discovering new species of deep-sea sharks, and many are very similar to each other.”
However, other experts believe that Trapman Bermagui may have been on the spot after all.
“It’s a gulper shark,” Brit Finucci, a fisheries scientist at the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand who specializes in deep-sea sharks, told Live Science in an email. However, it is not clear exactly which species this group belongs to, he added.
Charlie Huveneers, a shark scientist at Flinders University in Australia, told Live Science that he agreed with Finucci’s identification and that the animal was likely a gulper shark.
“In the past, gulper sharks were targeted by fisheries for their liver oil in New South Wales,” Finucci said.
Most gulper sharks are “very susceptible to overexploitation from fishing” and as a result, “some species are now threatened and highly protected in Australia,” he added.
This article was originally published by Live Science. Read the original article here.