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

The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act Passed the US Senate

On World Ocean’s Day 2021, CHOW (Capitol Hill Ocean Week) took a CHOMP out of the threats that sharks are still enduring. The CHOW bite came in the form of the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act (SFSEA- S. 1106), which recently passed the senate and is now returning to the House for approval.

Are Shark Attacks on the Rise? Not Really.

Maine had its first recorded deadly shark attack this week. We talk to experts about what is going on in the ocean and share some tips if you find yourselves in close contact with a shark.

There’s a Lot You Don’t Know About Sharks

SHARK WEEK starts August 9th, only on Discovery. But in the meantime, here are some fin-tastic facts you probably didn’t know about sharks.

King of the (Sea) Monsters

This story begins like any good Godzilla flick: the unsuspecting scientist, perfectly specialized for their twist of fate, does something mundane. Then ‘BOOM!’ the monster appears--in this case the Godzilla shark.

New Study Reveals True Size of Megalodon

Scientists know great white sharks are living descendants of megalodon sharks, but what we didn’t know was the true scale of the prehistoric animal. That is, until now.

COVID-19 Vaccine Development Threatens Shark Populations

Conservationists warn that half a million sharks could be killed and harvested to develop the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines. But what do sharks have to do with vaccines? One word: squalene.

Bob the Shark Takes Over Shark Week’s Amazon Alexa & Google Home Voice Skill

It’s not summer without Shark Week and it’s not Shark Week without Bob the Shark! Now you can talk to him about all things Shark Week on your Google Home or Amazon Alexa devices.

Swimming with Sharks

One research foundation is working to change public perception of sharks by taking people swimming with them – without a cage.

Shark Week 2020 Features More Science, Stars, and Sharks Than Ever

SHARK WEEK returns August 9 with special appearances by stars like Mike Tyson, Will Smith, and Shaquille O'Neil!Updated: July 31, 2020

Ready. Set. Mako! Join the 2021 Shark Week Race with Yes.Fit

Discovery teams up with YES.FIT for the Second Annual Shark Week Virtual Race through Maui, Hawaii. Make like a Mako, and let's go!
Related To: