AN extremely rare shark with a name as strange as its looks has been caught off the west coast of Scotland.
The sofa shark, over two metres long, was caught by marine biologists during a deep sea survey off the Isle of Barra.
The fish, properly known as a False Catshark, gets its nickname because of its flabby features, is only the second of its kind to be spotted in over a decade in British waters.
A picture taken of it on the boat shows a blobfish-like creature with narrow eyes, a big mouth and broad head with a short, rounded snout.
It was identified as a female and weighed almost 60 kilos – more than double the weight of the catshark that was spotted 15 years ago.
Marine biologist Francis Neat was surprised to catch the shark during the survey.
He said: “I was pretty surprised when it landed in our boat.
“We quickly measured and weighed it before sending it back into the water. We hadn’t seen one in ten years.
“It’s not unique to Scotland but it’s certainly interesting to look at – it’s a big and baggy looking creature.
“It looks a lot like a soft, discarded sofa when it’s just lying there.”
The shark’s large, oily liver allows it to hover over the bottom of the ocean with little effort.
The slow-moving predator has rows of tiny teeth and usually eats bony fish such as eels, squid and shrimp.
It has been spotted in locations around the world, including the western Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean, and brings the total number of shark species living in Scottish waters to 72.
A spokesman for the Scottish Shark Tagging programme said it was a welcome addition to the list.
He said: “We’ve never seen this type of shark in Scotland before and it’s great to add it to our long list of species in Scotland.
“Not too long ago we were told that there were only 32 different types of shark in Scottish waters, but in the past year we’ve learned that there are actually 72 different species, many of which are in deep water.”
Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead was also delighted that the shark had been spotted.
He said: “It is great to see such a rare shark in Scottish waters, which has only been spotted here once before.
“The False Catshark was previously encountered back in 2000 by Marine Scotland Scientists whilst they were carrying out a survey just north of Vidal Bank.”
Both sofa sharks were caught within several miles of each other on the same part of the shelf slope north of Vidal Bank, 50 miles southwest from the Isle of Barra.
The animal caught in 2000 was 183cm long and weighed 25 kg.