This fish is rarely seen by humans but has lived on the Earth since long before man.
AWASHIMA MARINE PARK/GETTY IMAGES

The rare frilled shark is considered a “living fossil,” because evidence of its existence dates back to at least 80 million years ago. This summer, researchers found one alive and thriving off the coast of Portugal, adding yet more clues about the resilience of this ancient sea creature.

The shark was discovered off the Algarve coast by researchers who were working on a European Union project in the area, the BBC reported. The aim of the project was to “minimize unwanted catches in commercial fishing,” the researchers told SIC Noticisas TV, as the BBC noted. but the team unknowingly unearthed one of the rarest and most ancient animals on the planet.

Scientists believe the frilled shark has remained the same, both inside and out, since the Cretaceous Period, when the Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops still roamed the planet. The creature, known by scientists as Chlamydoselachus anguineus, is incredibly simple and unevolved, most likely due to the lack of nutrients found in its deep-sea dwellings. A Japanese study of the shark found in Suruga Bay, Japan, revealed that its diet is 61 percent cephalopods—the class to which squids and octopus belong.

This deep sea dweller is usually found between 390 and 4,200 feet below the surface, which is why it’s rarely seen and wasn’t even discovered before the 19th century (despite being around long before humans).

The shark caught this summer measured around five feet in length, but at their longest can be around six-and-a-half feet, IFL Science reported.  Another study of a Suruga Bay inhabitant showed that frilled sharks may also have the longest gestation period of any living creature, 42 months.

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SOURCE: Newsweek, Dana Dovey