Shark with 300 teeth that’s been on earth for 80m years caught in Portugal

Trawlers have recounted the astonishing moment they reeled in a terrifying rare shark with 300 teeth off the coast near Portugal.

The five foot-long frilled shark, often called "living fossils" due to how little they've changed over the last 80 million years, was plucked from over 2,000 metres below the water's surface.

Researchers told the Portuguese news channel SIC Noticisias TV they had been working with the EU to minimise the number of number of bycatches, or unwanted catches, as a result of commercial fishing.

Frilled sharks have been swimming in the deep since dinosaurs roamed the Earth – and their huge hinged jaws are used to great effect capturing squid and other fish.

In a statement released through the Portuguese Institute for the Sea and Atmosphere, researchers described the shark as having a "long slim body and a head reminiscent of a snake".

Professor Margarida Castro of the University of the Algarve told Sic Noticias the shark's 300 teeth "allows it to trap squid, fish and other sharks in sudden lunges".

Very little is known about the ancient species, the statement added, despite frilled sharks being found in the Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of Australia and Japan.

It is unclear why the species has survived as long as it has, but it has been speculated the frilled shark provided inspiration for 19th century sailors' stories of sea serpents.

Scientists are unsure of how many frilled sharks exist, as they lurk at extreme depths, where they are shrouded in constant darkness, crushing pressure and extremely cold temperatures.

In 2007, a frilled shark believed to be sick or injured was spotted near the water's surface, but died not long after it was transferred to a marine park.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists the frilled shark as a species of least concern, however they warned an increase in deep water commercial fishing could increase the number mistakenly pulled up by trawlers.

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