Shark Week 2020 | 'Alien Sharks: First Contact': Pregnant longnose dogfish and other exotic sharks encountered

The highlight came when the fishermen caught a live longnose dogfish, a little-known deepwater shark, that was pregnant and soon gave birth on camera


                            Shark Week 2020 | 'Alien Sharks: First Contact': Pregnant longnose dogfish and other exotic sharks encountered
Frilled shark (Getty Images)

When it comes to sharks, a handful of species take a chunk of the fame – the more common great white sharks, tiger sharks and bull sharks are more often than not featured on most shark specials, just because these are the ones more likely to be found swimming in the waters that are frequented by humans. However, there are more than 400 species of shark and many of them dwell in the deep sea and therefore stay out of the spotlight. These sharks are also some of the ocean's most interesting creatures and may resemble our idea of alien life. Discovery Channel's latest Shark Week special, 'Alien Sharks: First Contact' takes a look at some of these unknown sharks across the world. 

In Japan, we join shark ecologist Dr. Mareike Dornhege who is joined by a local scientist and fishermen as she goes looking for rare sharks -- especially the frilled shark -- in the waters of the country. Local fishermen believe that these rare sharks swim closer to the surface here because of the nutritious waters that flow down from Mount Fuji. Some of the sharks encountered here are goblin sharks and megamouth sharks. The goblin shark is a rare species of deep-sea shark and true to its name, it is one of the creepiest species of shark out there. Named after mythical goblins that appear in Japanese folklore, the goblin shark can thrust its jaw three inches out of its mouth to catch its prey. Megamouth sharks are one of three filter-feeding sharks, meaning they only eat plankton. Despite their large bathtub sized mouths that can swallow a whole person, they’re very docile and extremely rare. The kitefin shark is a medium-sized cylindrical shark with a short, blunt snout, and thick, fringed lips and is rarely captured alive on camera. Other species encountered by Mareike and her team include the gulper shark, a bird beak shark, named due to its pointy snout and a rough skin dogfish.

However, the highlight came when the fishermen caught a live longnose dogfish, a little-known deepwater shark. Soon after they transfer the longnose dogfish to a tank on the boat, it gives birth to about 20 litter pups, likely induced to the stress of being caught. Each longnose dogfish pup looks like its mother but has a yolk-filled sac attached to it, the contents of which will be absorbed by it.

The show also focuses on alien sharks around the Arctic Circle, closer to Alaska. Here, we have shark experts Paul Clerkin and Taylor Chappel who are trying to spot a Pacific sleeper shark. The sleeper sharks are giant sharks that prefer to live in really cold waters and the experts think it could have been a sleeper shark that had been confused for the Lochness monster. A sleeper shark is captured to be tagged and Clerkin also takes a sample of the copepod in the shark's eye. The copepod latch on to a shark's eye and eats its cornea. The scientists also spot a salmon shark; these sharks feast on migrating salmon.

'Alien Sharks: First Contact' aired on Discovery Channel on August 14 at 8/7c. A repeat presentation will air on August 15 at 12 AM ET.

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