But you’re not likely to ever see one in person.

By Marisa Spyker
March 06, 2018
Courtesy of Thomas Meyer/MarAlliance

If you’re lucky enough to gaze out over the deep blue sea on the regular, you're probably not be contemplating the vast number of secrets that still lie below its surface (95 percent of our oceans are still unexplored, according to the NOAA).

But, thanks to scientists and explorers, more and more is understood about our ocean and the creatures that call it home, each day. The latest find? A new breed of deepsea shark.

Through a collaboration among researchers from the Florida Institute of Technology, Florida State University, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and MarAlliance, marine biologists have determined that a shark once thought to have belonged to a world-wide species is actually in a league of its own.

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The research, which was published in a scientific journal last month, centers around a genus of sixgill sharks thought to be among the oldest creatures on the planet (preceding dinosaurs). They’ve been difficult to study in the past, due to their extreme deepwater habitats, but are known to inhabit the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans—and until recently, were thought to be one and the same.

Genetic testing has proved otherwise. The newly named Atlantic Sixgill Shark is a smaller species (growing up to six feet in length) than its Indo-Pacific counterpart, with six gills and “unique saw-like lower teeth.” They are found, primarily, in tropical and temperate waters off of Mexico, the Caribbean islands, and Florida.

Courtesy of Ivy Baremore/MarAlliance

The discovery is a big win for marine biologists, as it sheds light on the diversity of Sixgill Sharks and the need to protect the populations of each species separately.

“While we know very little about the deep sea in general, and deep sea sharks in particular, they are already being affected by fisheries,” says Ivy Baremore, a technical coordinator with MarAlliance and one of the authors of the journal article. “This new information will have implications for the conservation and management of the species.”