The unique cookiecutter shark

Posted: 01/08/2011 in all marine news

Donnell A. Tate – 

Marks made by cookiecutter sharks have been found on a wide variety of marine mammals and fishes, as well as on submarines, undersea cables and even human bodies. Though rarely encountered because of its oceanic habitat, there are a handful of documented attacks on humans that were apparently caused by cookiecutter sharks.

Similar reports have come from shipwreck survivors of suffering small, clean, deep bites during nighttime. In March 2009, Maui resident Mike Spalding was bitten by a cookiecutter shark while swimming across the Alenuihaha Channel. Nevertheless, this diminutive shark is not regarded as highly dangerous.

One of the earliest accounts of the wounds left by the cookiecutter shark on various animals is in ancient Samoan legend, which held that atu (skipjack tuna) entering Palauli Bay would leave behind pieces of their flesh as a sacrifice to Tautunu, the community chief. In later centuries, various other explanations for the wounds were advanced, including lampreys, bacteria and invertebrate parasites.

In 1971, Everet Jones of the U.S. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries (a predecessor of the National Marine Fisheries Service) discovered that the cigar shark, as it was then generally known, was responsible.

Shark expert Stewart Springer thus popularized the name “cookiecutter shark” for this species, though he originally called them “demon whale-biters.” Other common names used for this shark include luminous shark, smalltooth cookiecutter shark and smooth cookiecutter shark.

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  1. […] The unique cookiecutter shark « Maritime & Travel news […]

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