Hulley & M. J. Penrith, 1966
Hulley & M. J. Penrith, 1966
|Occurrences of the taillight shark|
The taillight shark (Euprotomicroides zantedeschia) is a little-known species of dogfish shark in the family Dalatiidae, and the only member of its genus. It is known from only two specimens collected from deep oceanic waters in the southern Atlantic Ocean. A small shark with a laterally compressed body and a bulbous snout, this species has unusual adaptations that indicate a specialized lifestyle: its pectoral fins are paddle-like and may be used for propulsion, unlike other sharks, and it has a pouch-like gland on its abdomen that emits clouds of luminescent blue fluid. This shark is likely aplacental viviparous and a formidable predator for its size. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) presently lacks sufficient data to assess its conservation status.
Taxonomy and phylogeny
The first specimen of the taillight shark was collected by the Cape Town trawler Arum in 1963, and was initially identified as a longnose pygmy shark (Heteroscymnoides marleyi) before being recognized as a hitherto unknown species. The genus name Euprotomicroides comes from this shark's resemblance to the pygmy shark (Euprotomicrus bispinatus). The specific epithet zantedeschia is derived from Zantedeschia aethiopica, a species of arum lily for which the trawler Arum was named.
Phylogenetic analysis based on dentition indicates that the taillight shark is the most basal member of its family, and is sister to the clade containing all other dalatiid species. Although there are no definitive fossil remains, the taillight shark may have evolved in the early Paleocene epoch (65.5–55.8 Ma), as part of a larger adaptive radiation of dogfish sharks into midwater habitats. The teeth of the extinct shark Palaeomicroides ursulae, found in early Campanian (83.5–70.6 Ma) deposits in Germany, closely resemble those of the taillight shark.
Distribution and habitat
The two specimens of the taillight shark were caught off South Africa in a trawl operating at a depth of 458–641 m (1,500–2,100 ft), and off Uruguay in a trawl operating at a depth of 195–205 m (640–670 ft). These records suggest that this shark is an inhabitant of the open ocean. However, it is unclear whether the known specimens were captured near the sea bottom where the trawls operated, or from midwater as the nets were being retrieved.
The taillight shark is laterally compressed, with a long, rounded snout and large, oval eyes. The mouth is large, containing 29 tooth rows in the upper jaw and 34 tooth rows in the lower jaw. The upper teeth are small and needle-like, while the lower teeth are large and triangular, with their bases interlocking to form a continuous cutting surface. The lips are thick and fringed, though not modified to be suctorial. The five pairs of gill slits are large, and increase in size from the first to the last.
The two dorsal fins are rounded and lack spines; the first is smaller than the second and located about halfway between the pectoral and pelvic fins. The pectoral fins are enlarged into rounded paddles. The pelvic fins are small and originate at the level of the second dorsal fin; the anal fin is absent. The caudal fin has a strong lower lobe and a long upper lobe with a prominent notch near the tip. The body is covered by small, non-overlapping dermal denticles; each denticle has radial ridges converging to a round central pit. The body is dark brown above and black below, with light margins on the fins. There are small light-emitting photophores scattered over the body. The first specimen was an immature female (originally reported incorrectly as a mature male) 17.6 cm (6.9 in) long, and the second was a mature male 41.6 cm (16.4 in) long.
Biology and ecology
The muscular, lobe-like pectoral fins of the taillight shark suggest that they may be used for propulsion, in a manner more akin to that of chimaeras than other sharks, or at least for hovering in the water column. Its strongly built jaws and teeth likely allow it to tackle relatively large prey. On the belly in front of the cloaca, there is a pouch-like groove devoid of denticles and lined with a luminescent tissue formed into numerous tightly-packed papillae (nipple-like structures). The entrance to the pouch is a slit lined with folds of skin. In life, the pouch emits a glowing blue fluid of unknown function. Reproduction is presumably aplacental viviparous as in the other members of its family.
The taillight shark is not caught significantly by any fishery, possibly due to its small size and habitat preferences. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) does not yet have enough data to assess its conservation status beyond Data Deficient.
- Burgess, G.H. (2006). Euprotomicroides zantedeschia. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on June 20, 2009.
- Hulley, P.A. and Penrith, M.J. (April 1966). "Euprotomicroides Zantedeschia, a New Genus and Species of Pigmy Dalatiid Shark from South Africa". Bulletin of Marine Science 16 (2): 222–229.
- Adnet, S. and Cappetta, H. (September 2001). "A palaeontological and phylogenetical analysis of squaliform sharks (Chondrichthyes: Squaliformes) based on dental characters". Lethaia 34 (3): 234–248. doi:10.1080/002411601316981188.
- Compagno, L.J.V. (1984). Sharks of the World: An Annotated and Illustrated Catalogue of Shark Species Known to Date. Rome: Food and Agricultural Organization. pp. 89–90. ISBN 9251013845.
- Munk, O. and Jørgensen, J.M. (1988). "Putatively luminous tissue in the abdominal pouch of a male dalatiine shark, Euprotomicroides zantedeschia Hulley & Penrith, 1966". Acta Zoologica 69 (4): 247–251. doi:10.1111/j.1463-6395.1988.tb00921.x.
- Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2009). "Euprotomicroides zantedeschia" in FishBase. June 2009 version.