Egg of a nursehound shark (Scyliorhinus stellaris) fixed on a red gorgonian (Paramuricea clavata) in the Mediterranean Sea

1255782192

Egg of a nursehound shark (Scyliorhinus stellaris) fixed on a red gorgonian (Paramuricea clavata) in the Mediterranean Sea

Photo by: Arnaud Abadie

Arnaud Abadie

The Great Easter (Shark) Egg Hunt

By: Vicky Vásquez

In the United States, we know that every April brings a giant bunny hiding an array of colorful eggs that vary in size, color and texture. But did you know the ocean’s got its own version?!

April 01, 2021

It’s a rabbit fish! In this case, the rabbit fish (Chimaera monstrosa) is a species of ghost shark, which can be found in the Mediterranean Sea. They are not, however, the only sharky-eggy-layers around. These sharky relatives are chondrichthyans, which include the aforementioned ghost shark (aka chimaeras), the flat sharks (aka rays and skates- think of rays without the spine) and the shark-sharks (you know). Among these chondrichthyans are those that lay eggs, which is made possible through a mechanism called oviparity (oh-vi-pair-it-eeeee).

Photo by: Dr. Dave Ebert

Dr. Dave Ebert

In this mode of reproduction, once the chondrichthyan mother has deposited her egg, the embryo inside is left to eat all the available yolk. Once that has happened, the former embryo now emerges in fully baby shark mode, which in science terms is more commonly called a pup. All ghost sharks and skate reproduce in this mode.

Photo by: Dr. Dave Ebert

Dr. Dave Ebert

Chondrichthyan mothers like the Easter Bunny, must make their eggs hard to find, but unlike the Easter Bunny, these chondrichthyan mothers REALLY don’t want you to find their eggs. In the case of chondrichthyans eggs, they are typically hidden in rock crevices, seaweeds, or even a muddy sea floor. A recent study has taken advantage of one more similarity that chondrichthyan eggs have to Easter Bunny eggs, and that’s their variation in size, color, and texture.

Photo by: Dr. Dave Ebert

Dr. Dave Ebert

Shark Week alumnus, Dr. Dave Ebert is one of several coauthors who teamed up for an EGG-citing paper about chondrichthyan egg cases of the Mediterranean and Black Seas. This study, recently published in The European Zoological Journal, has CRACKed the case of chondrichthyan egg for this region by getting down to the spEGGcifics. With 35 years of data and 461 specimens to review, this team of researchers could design an identification key.

Photo by: Dr. Dave Ebert

Dr. Dave Ebert

The ability to identify egg cases down to the species they came from is especially vital in developing a clearer picture of the chondrichthyans present in these areas. That’s because sometimes these egg cases are the only evidence of chondrichthyan’s presence in the area.

Photo by: Dr. Dave Ebert

Dr. Dave Ebert

Consequently, their work confirmed at least 22 oviparous species of Chondrichthyan within the Mediterranean and Black Seas. They even found a new species of water bunny! Hydrolagus mirabilis, for which the etymology of its genus name (the first part of it’s full scientific name) means water bunny.

During the study, it turns out that H. mirabilis, was extremely hard to find. Since hatched egg cases often wash up on shorelines this Easter, why not expand your egg hunt to beach! Although you may not live near the Mediterranean or Black Seas, there really is a group looking for your help. The best thing about the Shark Trust’s citizen science project, called the Great Egg Case Hunt, is that you can help all year long!

Next Up

Meet the Shark Species at Georgia Aquarium

Georgia Aquarium’s expert animal team cares for several shark species, from the great hammerhead and tiger sharks, to the largest in the sea - whale sharks (yes, they are a part of the shark family). Some of these species are apex predators essential to our ocean’s ecosystem. Unfortunately, humans are the number one threat to their populations.

Shark Week: The Podcast - Eli Roth on Shark Killing Tournaments

Luke Tipple chats with Eli Roth, award-winning filmmaker and shark conservationist about shark killing tournaments in Florida and across the United States.

New Walking Shark Species Discovered

A shark that walks, evolutionary conundrums, temperature changes, and tectonic shifts lead scientists to discover four new species of sharks.Watch Island of the Walking Sharks on Wednesday, July 27 at 8:00pm ET/PT on Discovery and stream it on discovery+.

Shark Week: The Podcast – Christine de Silva on the Technology Helping Us Understand Deep Sea Sharks

Luke Tipple is joined by Christine de Silva, marine scientist, shark expert, and co-founder of Juice Robotics to discuss deep-sea sharks and the technology helping us understand them.

Shark Week: The Podcast – Cristina Zenato on Why Sharks are the Safest Animal to Interact With on the Planet

Luke Tipple is joined by Cristina Zenato, “shark whisperer,” professional diver, shark expert, and founder of People of the Water. They discuss shark personalities, cognitive instincts, and their memory passed through DNA.

Shark Week: The Podcast – The Huge “Blob” Threatening Great White Sharks

Shark Girl Madison Stewart, star of Shark Week’s Jaws vs. The Blob, talks about the changing habits of and dangers to great white sharks.

Shark Week: The Podcast – The Life and Life Cycle of Sharks

Dive in with marine biologist and shark expert Luke Tipple as he discusses the evolution and life cycle of a shark from mating and birthing.

Shark Week: The Podcast – Shark Morphology - The Body of a Shark

Marine biologist and shark expert Luke Tipple recounts a shark interaction with a 20-foot Great White shark as he deep dives on shark anatomy.

Shark Week: The Podcast - How Smart Are Sharks?

The discussion turns this week to sharks’ intelligence, and how it varies among species. Host Luke Tipple is joined by Dr. Tristan Guttridge, a behavioral ecologist and veteran of Shark Week whose research has tackled the social smarts, and even personalities, of different kinds of sharks. He sheds light on why we shouldn’t just think of them as dumb fish with rows of razor-sharp teeth. And at the end, our researcher Sierra Kehoe tells us about shark hypnosis.

Shark Week: The Podcast - Shipwrecked & Surrounded by Sharks

This week, we do things a little differently, as Shark Week’s Luke Tipple invites Adventure Aaron into the podcast studio to talk about his incredible near-death experience on the open water. Adventure Aaron gets into what it takes to circumnavigate the world in an ocean rowboat, what it’s like to stare eye-to-eye with an oceanic white tip that probably wants you for lunch, and everything else that happened to him when his boat was capsized, and he was lost by himself at sea.

Related To: