Finding and tagging a rare speartooth shark from an open boat in Cape York

The lower teeth of the Speartooth Shark. Image: Richard Pillans/CSIRO

Australian scientists have for the first time tagged two rare speartooth sharks with satellite trackers off remote Cape York.

The elusive sharks, listed as critically endangered, were discovered in the Bizant River on the eastern side of Cape York in Queensland in 1982 but up until now only juvenile specimens have been seen.

The two adult specimens captured and released were more than two metres in length.

Tagging a male speartooth shark of about 2.3 metres length. Image: Richard Pillans/CSIRO

Very little was known about speartooth sharks until research led by CSIRO in 2004 began to get a better understanding of the distribution of juveniles in river systems in tropical Australia.

“We’ve been conducting research into the movement and population status of juvenile speartooth shark in the Wenlock River since 2006, and due to our long-term research we now know that juveniles are restricted to a few river systems in the Northern Territory and Queensland,” says CSIRO researcher Richard Pillans.

Dr Pillans, Barry Lyon and Luke Burnett of Australia Zoo managed to capture two speartooth sharks, a male and a female, the first adults of the species in Australia and the first live specimens recorded anywhere.

“Both individuals were tagged with satellite tags that will detach after approximately two months and provide information on where the sharks have moved to in this time,” says Dr Pillans.

The tags also collect water temperature and depth.

Science currently has no idea where the adults live but the young have a preference for rivers.

The speartooth shark has a dark grey dorsal, a large second dorsal fin and narrow spear-like teeth in the lower jaw which is where it gets its name from.

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.