DailyMailOne of the world’s rarest species of shark has turned up in a fish market in Mumbai – after not being seen since 2006. A university student browsing the market saw the critically endangered Ganges river shark and took pictures of the cadaver before it was gutted, chopped up and sold to the highest bidder. Classified as critically endangered and believed to be extinct, this animal could even be the last of this elusive species. Scientists have been trawling the freshwater rivers of India for more than two decades looking for this species of fish. First spotted in 1996, the Ganges river shark still remains a scientific mystery. ‘It’s a species that’s never really been seen in the western Indian Ocean,’ Rima Jabado, founder and lead scientist of the Gulf Elasmo Project – a shark research and conservation organisation – in the United Arabic Emirates told New Scientist. One of her students at St Xavier College in Mumbai, Evan Nazareth, took the pictures at the Sassoon docks fish market in Mumbai back in 2016. The unexpected discovery has now been documented in a scientific paper. The pictures show the razor sharp-teeth and unique second dorsal fin, a tell-tale sign of a Ganges river shark. Although they closely resemble bull sharks, these animals are a distinct species. They spend almost all their time in freshwater regions, such as the Ganges river, and can grow to be several feet long. The specimen found in Mumbai was an adult female that was more than eight feet long (266 cm) and had two pristine rows of teeth. Unfortunately no sample of the animal was obtained meaning scientists have been unable to gain genetic insight into the species. ‘There is so little information about these species,’ Dr Jabado said. Researchers believe over-fishing and habitat loss is to blame for dwindling numbers. The researchers don’t know for sure where the shark was caught, but it is believed it was further north of of Mumbai. Dr Jabado thinks it was likely trapped in the Indus River, close to the Pakistan border.
The good news is the Ganges River Shark, which scientists have been searching for for two decades and had believed to be extinct, has been rediscovered. The bad news is, the shark that was rediscovered was dead in a Mumbai fish market, so now the species might officially be extinct. The Ganges Shark resembles the deadly bull shark, however it is not believed to grow as large or to behave as aggressively as its famous cousins, but there is not a lot known by science about this extremely rare species. Based on what we know from other sharks, the Ganges Shark is likely mainly a fish eater, based on its slender teeth and small eyes. In fact, Ganges Sharks likely pose very little danger to humans, they have thin teeth meant for grasping, unlike the bull shark’s thick serrated teeth meant for tearing flesh. Only three specimens of the Ganges Shark have been studied by science, and these specimens were collected in the 1800’s, the shark was not recorded between 1867 and 1996 (or 2001 as 1996 is unconfirmed) so if scientists could obtain this specimen it could be a very important find.