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Divers are so fascinated with new fish, they don’t see 10-foot shark just above them

Screenshot of video of scientists with the California Academy of Sciences discovering a new fish while diving. The video captured by their safety officer shows them missing a 10-foot sixgill shark directly overhead.
Screenshot of video of scientists with the California Academy of Sciences discovering a new fish while diving. The video captured by their safety officer shows them missing a 10-foot sixgill shark directly overhead.

Scientists Luiz Rocha and Hudson Pinheiro were so busy discovering a bright new fish species that they almost missed the giant, pointy-toothed fish hovering right above them.

“We call this clip ‘that feeling when your science-obsessed colleagues won’t look up long enough to notice the 8- to 10-foot shark directly overhead.’”

Ichthyologists with the California Academy of Sciences discovered a new fish while diving, but a video captured by their safety officer shows them missing a 10-foot sixgill shark directly overhead.

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Rocha and Pinheiro are so engrossed by their discovery of Tosanoides aphrodite, a neon pink and yellow fish named for the Greek goddess of love and beauty, that they didn’t notice a shark just above their heads.

The video was filmed off the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Archipelago at a depth of about 420 feet, according to the video’s description on YouTube.

The divers thought their safety officer behind the camera, Mauritius Valente Bell “is just (enthusiastically) telling them it’s time to surface,” according to the video.

In the video, Bell tries his best to tell Pinheiro and Rocha to “Look at the shark!” but is largely ignored.

Maybe it’s his chipmunk voice.

In the video, the divers’ voices sound like they’ve been breathing in helium, and the scientists say “Chipmunk voices courtesy the helium in our divers’ rebreather mix.”

A rebreather gas mixture allows divers to go deeper and spend more time diving. And that mixture does contain helium, said Katie Jewett, a science writer for the California Academy of Sciences, according to The Verge.

The shark in the video is a bluntnose sixgill. Sixgills can grow to be 11 to 16 feet long, according to National Geographic. The scientists put the one in the video at about 8 to 10 feet long. They are found in warm waters in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans and have been spotted off the coast of the Carolinas.

“The bluntnose sixgill shark (Hexanchus griseus) is a primitive and distinctive shark,” Paul Rose wrote for National Geographic earlier this year. “The sixgill gets its name from a physical feature that sets it apart from other sharks: Instead of the more advanced five-gill arrangement which has evolved in most sharks, the sixgill has six gill slits. The sixgill shark that exists today is virtually unchanged from fossil forms dating back 200 million years ... They are not usually dangerous to humans unless provoked.”

The scientists in the video were diving as part of the global effort “Hope for Reefs” which seeks to “research and restore critical coral reef systems,” around the world, according to its website.

“Considered the ‘rainforests of the sea,’ coral reefs are some of the most biologically diverse, economically valuable, and beautiful ecosystems on Earth. They cover less than 1 percent of the ocean but contain more than 25 percent of marine species,” according to Hope for Reefs.

Close to 75 percent of all coral reefs in the world already are considered threatened by “overfishing, habitat destruction, water pollution, climate change, and ocean acidification” and the world has already lost at least 25 percent of its reefs. Another 30 percent are “predicted to die in the next thirty years,” according to Hope for Reefs. “Current efforts to save coral reefs are lagging far behind their rate of destruction.”

For more information on Hope for Reefs and its efforts or to donate, click here.

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