The Snaggletooth Shark, also known as the Fossil Shark (Hemipristis elongata) is a species of weasel shark and part of the family Hemigaleidae. It is the only surviving member of the genus Hemipristis. It is found in the Indo-Western Pacific, including the Red Sea, Southeast Africa, the Philippines, China and South Australia.
Snaggletooth Shark Description
The Snaggletooth Shark lives at a depth of 1 to 130 meters and commonly grows to a length of up to 240cm. It is found at the bottom of the water column in coastal areas, but also on continental shelf and insular shelf.
The color of the Snaggletooth Shark is light grey or bronze with no noticeable markings. As the name ‘Snaggletooth’ suggests, it has sharp, irregular teeth on the upper jaw and hooked teeth on the lower jaw. They have a body shape that is spindle-shaped, allowing it to travel faster in water.
The snout is rounded in a broad dorsoventral view. The gill slits are very long, and in adults they can be up to 3 – 3.5 times longer than the length of the eyes. They have a long parabolic trapezoidal mouth, with a length of 50 – 70% of its width and a lower jaw cut at symphysis. The ends of the upper lips furrow behind the back corners of the eyes and go into a toothless space in the midline of both jaws.
The upper anterolateral teeth have serrated mesial edges (in youngsters they are smooth) with short cusps. The Snaggletooth Sharks lower anterolateral teeth are very long, strong and have hooked cusps and differently shaped serrations and cusplets on the feet of the crowns. The lower crowns and roots are deeply arched, giving teeth an inverted Y-shape. The lower teeth stand out clearly when the sharks mouth is closed, bearing all it’s rows of teeth. The rows of teeth counts from 26 to 30/30 to 36, with 4 to 9 more lower rows than upper rows.
The fins of the Snaggletooth Shark are predominantly falcate. However, the posterior margins of the anal, second dorsal, pectoral and pelvic fins are strongly concave. The second dorsal fin is roughly the height of 2/5 to slightly less than 3/5 of the first dorsal fins’ height.
Reproduction is a soecific type of viviparity, called placental viviparity, in which the shark carries its live young in a placenta-like structure with an umbilical cord. The formation comes from the wall of the embryonic yolk sac that fuses with the wall of the uterus.
Like most sharks these days, the biggest threat to this species is over-fishing by fishing trawlers or gill nets. Because of its rapid growth and early maturity, it has been able to withstand such unsustainable fishing practices, but a continued level of unregulated and uncontrolled fishing can reduce the Snaggletooth Shark populations.
Fins are used in the sharkfin soup trade across China and other countries in Asia. The meat of the shark is also sold for consumption, while the liver is often harvested for its vitamins. The rest of the sharks carcass is made into fish meal.
To protect sharks it is vital that people do not support shark fishing or buy shark products.
The IUCN classifies Snaggletooth Sharks as endangered due to population decline and there are no safeguards for this particular species, however, in northern Australia (where they are often caught) the fisheries are well managed with restrictions and regulations against finning practices.