Last Updated 29 Dec 2020

Cookie Cutter Shark Facts

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Essay type Research
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The Cookiecutter Shark combines many specialized features that enable it to carve out a living in the deep-sea. Like many mesopelagic sharks, it has an elongated body cavity filled with an enormous liver comprising as much as 35% of its total weight. The Cookiecutter’s liver is perfused with low-density oils which render the shark nearly neutrally buoyant over a wide range of depths and thereby saves energy by freeing it from the need to swim constantly to avoid sinking.

It has very large eyes — the better with which to see potential prey — and a short, broad caudal fin that is ideal for rapid bursts of acceleration over short distances — that is, ambushing prey from close range.

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Hunting Abilities

To lure prey within range, the Cookiecutter Shark relies on its brilliant luminescence. Complex light-producing organs called “photophores” are scattered over the Cookiecutter’s entire body and are especially richly distributed on its belly and lower surfaces.

The main function of this pattern of bioluminescent organs is to eliminate an animal’s shadow as seen from below, a common mesopelagic anti-predatory strategy known as “counter-illumination”. But there is a very curious fact about the distribution of photophores on the Cookiecutter Shark’s undersurfaces: they are completely absent from the region under the throat between the gill slits. It has recently been proposed that this dark patch that is bordered by luminescent organs may mimic the search image of many upward-looking pelagic predators.

Thus, when a would-be predator approaches what appears to be a small shadow of a potential prey animal, it is brought within the striking range of the insidious Cookiecutter Shark and the predator has become prey.

Humans who, by accident or by design, enter the open sea are not immune from attacks by Cookiecutter Sharks. The body of a drowned fisherman recovered ff the coast of Oahu, Hawaii, in July 1992 had two Cookiecutter bites to the lower back. These bites are believed to have been inflicted post mortem, but there are a few documented reports of people — including shipwreck survivors and, in one case, an underwater photographer — being attacked in the tropical open ocean by schools of blunt-snouted and extremely ferocious foot-long (30-centimetre long) “fish” that neatly sliced out circular plugs of flesh about an inch (2. centimeters) in diameter. The fish responsible may well have been Cookiecutters. This frightening possibility certainly puts the romantic notion of a moonlight swims in a whole new light.

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Cite this page

Cookie Cutter Shark Facts. (2016, Nov 28). Retrieved from

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