Until remote cameras were invented, no-one had ever seen the mysterious Prickly Shark in it's own deep-sea environment. This is a shark that lives way beyond human dive range, but recently scientists have discovered them in shallower water. Prickly Sharks live in the Pacific Ocean at depths between three-hundred and thirteen-hundred feet, well out of reach of the average diver, but recently scientists have found them in much shallower water, in an underwater canyon at the head of Monterey Bay off the central coast of California.
Monterey Bay is well known for it's marine life. The food-rich upwellings from the nearby underwater Canyon support an ecosystem that sustains creatures like harbour seals, sea lions, thousands of pelicans and, of course, the famous sea otter. But it's the only place in the world where Prickly Sharks have been seen at depths of less than 300 feet. Although it's large enough to cause a lot of harm, the Prickly Shark seems a little sluggish and it appears that you can approach them safely even so it's going to be dangerous diving. It's not just the depth, the cold, or the fact that the dangerous six-gill shark has been seen with the Pricklies. Just two days before the filming crew were in the area a Great White was seen right here.
The sharks come up here at night and then during the daylight they are moving off shore into deeper water and we don't know yet whether that is associated with light or whether light is correlated with a mating activity or a feeding activity and that is really what we are up here to find out. Are they up here to feed or are they up here to mate?
That big eye is sensitive to the dim light of the deep ocean. No wonder it only comes up during the hours of darkness, these are probably extremely bright conditions for it. Shark skin is usually rough, but tiny spines make this shark even more so. Sharks like these are very tolerant of pressure changes, because they lack the swim bladders and other gas spaces that can expand and cause problems for other fish and divers like me. So she is perfectly at home in 30 feet or 1300 feet. That mouth situated on the shark's underside or ventral surface is a good clue that it's a bottom-feeder. Flounder, sand dabs, crustaceans and stuff like that. Scientists think they just swim up and suck things in rather than tear them apart.
These still frame grabs come from some NHNZ Images movie clips that were filmed during the course of production of Animal Planet's Shark Gordon series.