The Ganges river shark (scientific name Glyphis gangeticus) hasn’t been spotted for more than 10 years. In fact, the critically endangered freshwater carnivore is so elusive, researchers’ knowledge of it is limited to what they’ve been able to learn from three museum specimens preserved in the 1800s.
But recently, the shark was rediscovered in the last place anyone was expecting to find it: a Mumbai fish market.
— Rima Jabado (@GulfElasmo) April 3, 2018
The photos, taken as part of a study funded by a Save Our Seas Foundation grant, show a female shark just under 9 feet long — identifiable by her small eyes, round snout, and species-specific fins.
Unfortunately, fishermen and traders at the market quickly processed the large shark, cutting it up before researchers could take morphological measurements or tissue samples. The researchers were also unable to confirm where the shark was caught, though they believe it was somewhere along the northeast coast of the Arabian Sea.
India is one of the most significant markets for sharks and rays in the world, meaning overfishing may be having a drastic effect on the already “highly threatened, rare and elusive” shark. Habitat degradation plays a role, too, say conservationists, and the shark’s actual numbers are difficult to determine because of a lack of examinable specimens.
Biologists hope to find more — preferably whole, live — Ganges river sharks. The rare creatures are one of 10 species of cartilaginous fish, called Chondrichthyes, that are protected under the Indian Wildlife Act.