Scientists Discover 'Alien Viper Shark’ With Extendable Jaws In Taiwan

A viper dog fish, dubbed as the “alien shark,” which can extend its jaws beyond its mouth was caught in the Pacific Ocean.



Fisheries officials recently discovered a sea monster off the coast of Taiwan and were baffled to see the rare glowing viper shark had the ability to extend its jaws beyond its mouth. The fish was dubbed as “alien shark” because it reminded scientists about the monster from the sci-fi hit “Alien.”

The rare fish which are completely black but have light-producing cells called “photophores” on their underside were caught in the Pacific Ocean near Taiwan.  Five of them were caught at a depth of 350m, during an offshore trawl near Donghe Township on the country's East coast during a routine survey. Most of the fish were reportedly dead at the time of discovery. Only one of them was alive and kept in cold water for survival, but it died a day later.

All the specimens were reserved for scientific study. 

“The most obvious feature are the needle-shaped teeth, like snake-like fangs; this is also the origin of viper shark name,” said the Taiwan's Fisheries Research Institute.


The fish seizes its prey with by rapidly extending its jaws and can use its huge gape to swallow comparatively large fish as a whole. These glow-in-the-dark sharks are extremely rare, with only a handful of them being caught since they were first discovered in 1986.

According to a fish expert, the fish’s small size might be one factor, for them not being caught.

"Smaller individuals may escape through mesh nets," said fisheries biologist, Brit Finucci. "Or they may inhabit parts of the ocean where there is little human interaction. They're on my wishlist of species to see!"

Their diet consists of crustaceans and bony fishes, including lantern fishes – which are likely attracted by the deep-sea dwellers glowing body.

The deep-sea predators are usually discovered beneath 360 metres (about 1000ft) below the surface and scientists believe the fish may have the ability to venture deeper than this. 

Most of them were caught at night, which likely indicates the animals are vertical migrators who swim up the surface to feed when the sun dips below the horizon. Marine biologist and shark expert Dave Ebert believes only a few of these sharks are discovered because of a case of “mistaken identity.”

"It sort of reminds me of a lanternshark that has undergone some kind of diabolical experiment,” he said. "It is definitely a bizarre-looking shark!"

Thumbnail/Banner : Wikimedia Commons / Stephen M Kajiura

View Comments

Recommended For You