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Frilled shark. Image credit: Getty

6 Bizarre Sharks That Live in the Deep Ocean

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Frilled shark. Image credit: Getty

Whether or not they deserve their notorious reputation, sharks are a common source of fear. But beachgoers shouldn’t worry about coming face-to-face with these spooky specimens—they all live at least 1000 feet below the ocean’s surface. From ghost sharks to goblin sharks, we’re here to shed light on the mysterious lives of these deep sea dwellers.

1. GREENLAND SHARK

The first part of the Greenland shark’s scientific name, Somniosus microcephalus, means “sleep,” a nod to its sluggish lifestyle. The second largest predatory shark in the ocean moves at a glacial pace of one mile per hour. The drowsy name also makes sense in the context of the effect the shark has on those who eat it. Its flesh contains the toxic substance trimethylamine oxide, and ingesting it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, and the appearance of drunkenness (that’s why native Greenlanders call someone who’s had too much to drink “shark-sick”). The sharks are also capable of having abnormally long lives. In 2016, researchers found a specimen that had been cruising deep beneath the Arctic for the past 392 years.

2. GOBLIN SHARK

The goblin shark isn’t known for its dazzling good looks. Its defining feature is a jagged mouth of teeth that becomes even more pronounced when it launches forward from the skull to seize prey. Fortunately for anyone disturbed by its appearance, the goblin shark occupies depths up to 4265 feet where looks aren’t a priority.

A much bigger item on the species’s evolutionary agenda is finding sustenance. Food is hard to come by that far below the surface, so the species adapted by developing a relatively large mouth for trapping squid, fish, and crustaceans that pass by. They’ve long been known to Japanese fishermen (who originally named it tengu-zame after a long-nosed goblin from folktales), but much about these sharks still remains mysterious to scientists.

3. DEMON CATSHARK

Daniel Moore via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

There are at least 32 species of demon catshark including the white ghost catshark, the smalleye catshark, and the Iceland catshark (above), but scientists still know little about their lives at the bottom of the Northeast Atlantic. The slow-moving creatures grow up to 2 feet long and feed on squid and crustaceans as far as 7000 feet beneath the sea. Their flat heads and gleaming, slanted eyes earned them their demonic name. Another distinctive feature of the Apristurus genus are the two spineless dorsal fins poking up from the back of the body [PDF].

4. SWELL SHARK

Not much light reaches the water 1640 feet beneath the ocean’s surface, but swell sharks have developed a unique way to catch each other’s eyes. Their skin absorbs what little blue light there is at the bottom of the sea and transforms it into brilliant green biofluorescent light. Swell sharks have a photoreceptor in their eyes that lets them detect the glow, whereas humans cannot.

A couple of years ago, a team of researchers found their way around this by building a camera with a blue light-blocking yellow filter. This allowed them to explore underwater environments with “shark vision.” Scientists aren’t entirely sure what function the biofluorescence serves, but they suspect it’s used as a form of communication between sharks. Swell sharks have a different super power for dealing with enemies: When threatened, they suck in large gulps of water, swelling up to twice their size (hence the name).

5. COOKIE CUTTER SHARK

Jennifer Strotman via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This shark got its cutesy name from a rather gruesome behavior: When feeding, the 16- to 22-inch predators latch onto prey with suction cup lips and rotate to carve out medallions of meat. The wounds they leave behind are more scoop-like than cookie-shaped, and are inflicted on larger animals like marlin, tuna, wahoo, dolphins, and whales. They can be found 3200 feet deep during the day, but they wander upward at night to hunt, which has led to at least one attack on a human swimmer. Though a run-in with a cookie cutter likely wouldn’t be deadly, their creepy, tooth-filled “smile” isn’t something you'd want to see on a midnight swim.

6. FRILLED SHARK

Frilled sharks have been around for 80 million years, a fact that’s easier to process once you take a look at them. At the end of their prehistoric bodies is a mouth full of 300 teeth across 25 rows that glisten white to lure in prey.

The shark is named for its six pairs of gills which are each trimmed with red “frills.” In 2007, a group of fishermen made history when they spotted a live frilled shark in shallow waters off the coast of Japan. The fish was taken to the Awashima Marine Park in Shizuoka where it was transferred to a seawater pool. After some incredibly rare photographs were taken, the shark sadly died a few hour later.

BONUS: GHOST SHARK

In 2009, scientists with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute recorded video of a strange creature 6700 feet deep into the Gulf of California. It had a long nose, ghoulish gray skin, and saucer-like eyes that stared blankly into the surrounding abyss. Seven years later, a team of experts identified the creature to be a pointy-nosed blue chimaera, a species of ghost shark never before caught live on tape.

Despite its name, the ghost shark isn’t technically a shark. Chimaeras are close relatives that also use flexible cartilage in place of solid bone. Little is known about the group, but researchers suspect the lines of dots dimpling their snouts are used to detect prey. Males are also notable for wielding retractable sex organs on their foreheads.

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Animals
14 Fascinating Facts About Foxes
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Foxes live on every continent except Antarctica and thrive in cities, towns, and rural settings. But despite being all around us, they’re a bit of a mystery. Here’s more about this elusive animal.

1. Foxes Are Solitary.

Foxes are part of the Canidae family, which means they’re related to wolves, jackals, and dogs. They’re medium-sized, between 7 and 15 pounds, with pointy faces, lithe frames, and bushy tails. But unlike their relatives, foxes are not pack animals. When raising their young, they live in small families—called a “leash of foxes” or a “skulk of foxes”—in underground burrows. Otherwise, they hunt and sleep alone.

2. Foxes Have A Lot In Common With Cats.

Like the cat, the fox is most active after the sun goes down. In fact, it has vertically oriented pupils that allow it to see in dim light. It even hunts in a similar manner to a cat, by stalking and pouncing on its prey.

And that’s just the beginning of the similarities. Like the cat, the fox has sensitive whiskers and spines on its tongue. It walks on its toes, which accounts for its elegant, cat-like tread. And—get this—many foxes have retractable claws that allow them to climb rooftops or trees. Some foxes even sleep in trees—just like cats.

3. The Red Fox Is The Most Common Fox.

The red fox has the widest geographical range of any animal in the order Carnivora. While its natural habitat is a mixed landscape of scrub and woodland, its flexible diet allows it to adapt to many environments. As a result, its range is the entire Northern Hemisphere, from the Arctic Circle to North Africa to Central America to the Asiatic steppes. It’s also in Australia, where it’s considered an invasive species.

4. Foxes Use The Earth’s Magnetic Field.

Like a guided missile, the fox harnesses the earth’s magnetic field to hunt. Other animals, like birds, sharks, and turtles, have this “magnetic sense,” but the fox is the first one we’ve discovered that uses it to catch prey.

According to New Scientist, the fox can see the earth’s magnetic field as a “ring of shadow” on its eyes that darkens as it heads towards magnetic north. When the shadow and the sound the prey is making line up, it’s time to pounce. Here’s the fox in action:

5. Foxes Are Good Parents.

Foxes reproduce once a year. Litters range from one to 11 pups (the average is six), which are born blind and don’t open their eyes until nine days after birth. During that time, they stay with the vixen (female) in the den while the dog (male) brings them food. They live with their parents until they're seven months old. The vixen protects her pups with surprising loyalty. Recently, a fox pup was caught in a trap in England for two weeks, but survived because its mother brought it food every day.

6. The Smallest Fox Weighs Under 3 Pounds.

Roughly the size of a kitten, the fennec fox has elongated ears and a creamy coat. It lives in the Sahara Desert, where it sleeps during the day to protect it from the searing heat. Its ears not only allow it to hear prey, they also radiate body heat, which keeps the fox cool. Its paws are covered with fur so that the fox can walk on hot sand, like it’s wearing snowshoes.

7. Foxes Are Playful.

Foxes are known to be friendly and curious. They play among themselves as well as with other animals like cats and dogs. They love balls, which they frequently steal from golf courses.

Although foxes are wild animals, their relationship with humans goes way back. In 2011, researchers opened a grave in a 16,500-year-old cemetery in Jordan to find the remains of a man and his pet fox. This was 4000 years before the first-known human and dog were buried together.

8. You Can Buy A Pet Fox.

In the 1960s, a Soviet geneticist named Dmitry Belyaev bred thousands of foxes before achieving a domesticated fox. Unlike a tame fox, which has learned to tolerate humans, a domesticated fox is docile toward people from birth. Today, you can buy a pet fox for $9000, according to Fast Company. They’re reportedly curious and sweet-tempered, although inclined to dig in your furniture.

9. Arctic Foxes Don’t Shiver Until –70 degrees Celsius.

The arctic fox, which lives in the northernmost areas of the hemisphere, can handle cold better than most animals on earth. It doesn’t even get cold until –70 degrees Celsius. Its white coat also camouflages it against predators. As the seasons change, the coat changes too, turning brown or gray so the fox can blend in with the rocks and dirt of the tundra.

10. Fox Hunting Continues To Be Controversial.

Perhaps because of the fox’s ability to decimate a chicken coop, in the 16th century, fox hunting became a popular activity in Britain. In the 19th century, the upper classes turned fox hunting into a formalized sport where a pack of hounds and men on horseback chase a fox until it is killed. Today, whether to ban fox hunting continues to be a controversial subject in the UK. Currently, fox hunting with dogs is not allowed.

11. The Fox Appears Throughout Folklore.

Examples include: the nine-tail fox from various Asian cultures; the Reynard tales from medieval Europe; the sly trickster fox from Native American lore; and Aesop’s “The Fox and the Crow.” The Finnish believed a fox made the Northern Lights by running in the snow so that its tail swept sparks into the sky. From this, we get the phrase “fox fires.”

12. Bat-eared Foxes Listen For Insects.

The bat-eared fox is aptly named, not just because of its 5-inch ears, but because of what it uses those ears for—like the bat, it listens for insects. On a typical night, the fox walks along the African Savannah, listening, until it hears the scuttle of prey. Although the fox eats a variety of insects and lizards, most of its diet is made up of termites. In fact, the bat-eared fox often makes its home in termite mounds, which it usually cleans out of inhabitants before moving in.

13. Darwin Discovered A Fox Species.

During his voyage on the Beagle, Charles Darwin collected a fox that today is unimaginatively called Darwin’s Fox. This small gray fox is critically endangered and lives in just two spots in the world: One population is on Island of Chiloé in Chile, and the second is in a Chilean national park. The fox’s greatest threats are unleashed domestic dogs that carry diseases like rabies.

14. Foxes Sound Like This.

Foxes make 40 different sounds, some of which you can listen to here. The most startling is the scream:

Pleasant dreams!

All images courtesy of iStock unless otherwise stated.

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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Love Scratching Furniture?
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Allergy suffering aside, cat ownership has proven health benefits. A feline friend can aid in the grieving process, reduce anxiety, and offer companionship.

The con in the cat column? They have no reservations about turning your furniture into shredded pleather. No matter how expensive your living room set, these furry troublemakers will treat it with the respect accorded to a college futon. Do cats do this out of some kind of spite? Are they conspiring with Raymour & Flanigan to get you to keep updating home decor?

Neither. According to cat behaviorists, cats gravitate toward scratching furniture mostly because that love seat is in a really conspicuous area [PDF]. As a result, cats want to send a message to any other animal that may happen by: namely, that this plush seating belongs to the cat who marked it. Scratching provides both visual evidence (claw marks) as well as a scent marker. Cat paws have scent glands that can leave smells that are detectable to other cats and animals.

But it’s not just territorial: Cats also scratch to remove sloughed-off nail tips, allowing fresh nail growth to occur. And they can work out their knotted back muscles—cramped from sleeping 16 hours a day, no doubt—by kneading the soft foam of a sectional.

If you want to dissuade your cat from such behavior, purchasing a scratching post is a good start. Make sure it’s non-carpeted—their nails can get caught on the fibers—and tall enough to allow for a good stretch. Most importantly, put it near furniture so cats can mark their hangout in high-traffic areas. A good post might be a little more expensive, but will likely result in fewer trips to Ethan Allen.

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