The rare Indian shark treasure
The Pondicherry shark (Carcharhinus hemiodon) is an extremely rare species of requiem shark, in the family Carcharhinidae. Currently, the only known sightings of this species since the 1980s are in rivers in Sri Lanka. The Pondicherry shark enters and tolerates fresh water but is not a full or exclusive freshwater species of shark. The Pondicherry shark is harmless to humans.
The Pondicherry shark has never been listed as extinct, despite what some of you may have watched on TV. IUCN has had the Pondicherry shark classified as critically endangered, and was last evaluated in 2003, meaning there have been no new “extinct” classifications between then, and current day August 1, 2019. It was also seen living upstream in 2016, well before what you may have seen on TV.
Family: Carcharhinidae – Requiem sharks
Common Name– Ground Sharks
Common Name– Requiem Sharks
The Pondicherry shark has never been listed as extinct, despite what some of you may have watched on TV. IUCN has had the Pondicherry shark classified as critically endangered, and was last evaluated in 2003, meaning there have been no new “extinct” classifications between then, and current day August 1, 2019.
Average Size and Length: The maximum size reached by the Pondicherry shark is uncertain due to a lack of large specimens but is probably not much greater than 3.3 feet in length.
Teeth and Jaw: The mouth of the Pondicherry shark does not have furrows or enlarged pores at the corners. The upper and lower jaws contain 14–15 and 12–14 tooth rows on either side. There are one or two rows of small teeth at the upper and lower symphyses. The upper teeth have a single narrow, smooth-edged central cusp, flanked on both sides by very large serrations. The lower teeth are narrower and more upright than the uppers, and may be smooth to finely serrated.
Head: The Pondicherry shark has a moderately long, pointed snout. They have large circular eyes with nictitating membranes. Each nostril is broad with a small, narrow lobe on the anterior rim.
Denticles: The Pondicherry shark has overlapping dermal denticles. Each denticle has 3 horizontal ridges leading to 3 (on occasion 5) marginal teeth.
Tail: The caudal peduncle has a deep crescent-shaped notch at the upper caudal fin origin. The asymmetrical caudal fin has a well-developed lower lobe and a longer upper lobe with a notch in the trailing margin near the tip.
Demographic, Distribution, Habitat, Environment and Range: The Pondicherry shark was broadly distributed in the Indo-Pacific. It may have once been common, as it was reportedly a regular catch off India and Pakistan, but is now extremely rare and critically endangered.
Most of the known specimens of Pondicherry shark were collected from India, with more from the Gulf of Oman, Borneo, and Java. There are also less reliable records from the South China Sea, other parts of Southeast Asia such as Vietnam and the Philippines, New Guinea, and northern Australia. It has been spotted in the Maldives.
The Pondicherry shark inhabits inshore waters. There are some sources that have said that it could be found in rivers such as the Hooghli River and the Saigon River; although these reports may have confused a river shark. If it is true, that would suggest that the Pondicherry shark to be tolerant of low salinity. In 2016 scientists did confirm this.
Diet: The diet of the Pondicherry shark is thought to consist of small bony fishes, cephalopods, and crustaceans.
Aesthetic Identification: The Pondicherry shark has five pairs of long gill slits, and is of a robust build. It is gray above and counter-shaded white below, with an obvious pale stripe on the flanks. The pectoral fins, second dorsal fin, and lower caudal fin lobe are obviously tipped in black, while the first dorsal fin and dorsal caudal fin lobe are slightly edged in black.
Originating below the fourth pair of gill slits, the pectoral fins are short, broad, and falcate with pointed tips. The first dorsal fin is tall and falcate with a distinctively long free rear tip, and is positioned just behind the pectoral fin bases. The second dorsal fin is large and tall without a notably extended free rear tip, and is positioned over or slightly behind the anal fin. Usually there is no midline ridge between the dorsal fins, and when present the ridge is slight.
Biology and Reproduction: A parasite found in the Pondicherry shark is the tapeworm Acanthobothrium paramanandai. The Pondicherry shark is viviparous. The smallest known specimen is a female 13 inches long, which may be close to the birth size. Sexual maturity is attained at a length of over 24 inches.
Pondicherry Shark Future and Conservation: The Pondicherry shark Is critically endangered mainly due to sport and commercial fishing in its environment is unregulated, and quite heavy. It is caught and used for meat.
This shark’s rarity originally led to fears that it may be possibly extinct (NEVER LISTED AS EXTINCT). However, in 2016, the Pondicherry shark was rediscovered in the Sri Lankan Menik and Kumbukkam rivers.
Pondicherry Shark Recorded Attacks on Humans: The Pondicherry shark is harmless to humans.