A Manawatū couple had an unexpected find walking along Himatangi Beach when they discovered a visitor from the deepest depths of the ocean.
What is believed to be a kitefin shark washed up on Himatangi Beach, Manawatū.
Sandy Abbot’s wife Ursula was walking their dog along the beach near their home on Saturday morning when her canine companion alerted them to the washed up carcass of a large shark.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.
Unsure what it was, a Google image search soon revealed to the couple it was a kitefin shark, the largest known luminescent vertebrate.
The kitefin shark (Dalatias licha), which can grow to 180 centimetres, live in the ocean’s “twilight zone”, 200 to1000 metres down, below which sunlight can’t reach.
In 2020, a New Zealand study confirmed that they glow in the dark.
The kitefin shark live in the ocean’s “twilight zone”, 200 to 1000 metres down.
Abbot said it was unlikely they would have spotted the shark if it weren’t for their blue heeler Tessa, as its colour meant it blended into the sandy surrounds.
He thought it must have washed up last night as it was still fresh and in good condition.
Until googling it, Abbot had never heard of the “unusual” deep sea species.
“That’s a deep ocean shark so that’s really odd. It’s unusual to see if so far from its habitat.”
“It’s got huge eyes and a [distinctive] snout. Apparently they live in almost blackness, hence why their eyes are so big.”
He described it as being about 1.4-1.5 metres long with “fierce” and “wicked” looking teeth.
Daylight view (top) and luminescent pattern of the kitefin shark
Abbot left the shark where it was and thought it likely to have been reclaimed by the ocean at the next high tide.
He said it was an “amazing” find.
A Department of Conservation (DOC) spokesperson says kitefin sharks, or more commonly known as the seal shark in New Zealand, are a globally distributed, deep water species that are commercially fished for its flesh or liver oil in many parts of the world.
“Although this is a common species it is unusual to find one washed ashore like this because of their preference for deep water,” they said.