Elusive and extremely rare catshark captured in amazing video

The elusive, dainty and cute catshark comes out of hiding for a Schmidt Ocean expedition.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read
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This short-tail catshark (Parmaturus bigus), seen at the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia, is a rare sight.

Schmidt Ocean video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Great whites might be the jumbo stars of the shark world, but there are some equally fascinating members on the other side of the size spectrum. The crew of the research vessel Falkor experienced the wonders of the deep when it spotted "one of the rarest species of sharks in the world" during a recent Schmidt Ocean Institute mission.

Shark expert Will White with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia's national science research agency, identified the short-tail catshark Parmaturus bigus from footage captured during an exploration of the Great Barrier Reef on Oct. 17. Falkor's remotely operated submersible SuBastian got a good look at the big-eyed creature. 

Though you can chill out and enjoy the hours of underwater footage and scientific commentary, the shark appears a little over two hours into this video. "It's a shark!" the scientists comment as they zoom in.

Researchers have collected only one specimen of Parmaturus bigus, which is held in the Australian National Fish Collection. The one spotted lounging on the sand was a male estimated to be around 20 inches (50 cm) long. The remotely operated vehicle was able to follow it as it swam off.

Even better, the ocean researchers discovered they had filmed another specimen during a dive back in May but hadn't identified it at the time. The team also found footage of an egg case from the short-tail catshark, giving scientists a wealth of new information about the species and its habitat.

"Through the efforts of the Falkor team, we now have three more records of one of the world's rarest sharks," Schmidt Ocean said in a statement Monday, including "the first footage of a living specimen."

Schmidt Ocean expeditions have gifted us some extraordinary views of the marvels of the deep in recent years, from a stunningly bizarre siphonophore to a wild "benthic tornado." The catshark fits in beautifully with this impressive track record of discovery.