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M. Doosey/Tulane University

A rare, incredibly cute “pocket shark” was just discovered

By Matt Phillips

Only two people have ever spotted a “pocket shark” in the wild. But government scientists stumbled upon one in their own lab.

Scientists found the five-and-a-half-inch long specimen at a laboratory operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Pascagoula, Mississippi. It had been scooped up in the deep sea about 190 miles off the Lousiana coast during a 2010 mission to study sperm whale feeding, then frozen along with other marine life for study. From a NOAA press release about the find:

“The pocket shark we found was only 5 and a half inches long, and was a recently born male,” said Mark Grace of NOAA Fisheries’ Pascagoula, Miss., Laboratory, lead author of the new study, who noted the shark displayed an unhealed umbilical scar. “Discovering him has us thinking about where mom and dad may be, and how they got to the Gulf. The only other known specimen was found very far away, off Peru, 36 years ago.”

Fun fact: While the pocket shark is small enough to fit in your pocket, that’s not where it got its name. According to NOAA it’s “dubbed ‘pocket’ because of the distinctive orifice behind its pectoral fin.”

J. Wicker/NOAA
How humiliating.
M. Doosey/Tulane University
It is really quite small.

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