Cryptid Profile: The Ground Shark
When most people think of dangerous predators in the ocean, the one image that most often comes to mind is that of the Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias). With common specimens reaching lengths over 14ft (for the males) and 17ft (for the females) respectively, the fish is definitely a fear inducing sight to see while out in the ocean. Throw in a mouth filled with over 300 teeth and a dorsal fin that menacingly glides along the surface of the water, and you’ve got what many choose to describe as a monster. But what many people don’t know, is that there is believed to be a shark which rivals that of the Great White. An aggressive man-eater known as the Ground Shark.
First recorded by Willy Ley in his 1941 “romantic zoology” book, “The Lungfish and the Unicorn”, the Ground Shark is said to primarily reside within the 235,000sq mi Timor Sea along the north coast of Australia. Believed to slightly resemble a Great White in appearance, it dwarfs its rival in sheer overall size. The Ground Shark is also thought to lack a common feature found on most other sharks, a dorsal fin. Since the dorsal fin is used to stabilize a shark while swimming, help it turn, and to keep it from rolling, the Ground Shark is believed to not swim much. Instead, it sits along the bottom of the shallow ocean among the reefs and waits for prey to come to it. Typically devouring it whole with one bite.
Since the Ground Shark is considered an ambush predator, it is not picky on what it chooses to consume. Everything from crustaceans, to octopi, and even other sharks are thought to be well within the creatures diet as long as they swim by. And since the shark is believed to be anywhere from 18-25ft long, it is not hard to imagine that an occasional unlucky human diving in the area may also fall victim to the hunger of this bottom dwelling giant.
The Ground Shark does not exist without its fair share of controversy though. Since being recorded by Ley over 77yrs ago, there has never been a real verifiable sighting or interaction with the creature. This leads many to believe that the legend of the Ground Shark truly originated from a misidentified Wobbegong (Carpet Shark) sighting. This could make sense as Wobbegongs are found within the Timor Sea, are bottom dwelling sharks, and have been known to be quite territorial and aggressive with divers. What challenges this belief though is that the largest of this species only grows to a length of around 10ft, it possesses a far set back dorsal fin, and has a row of sensory weed-like barbs growing along the outside of its mouth (something a shark resembling a Great White would not have). So while there some noteworthy similarities between the two creatures, there are just as many differences.
So, could the Ground Shark simply be a larger than normal Wobbegong that was thriving in the area of the Timor Sea in the 1940’s, and after its first sighting went on to be the subject of local folklore? This is the generally accepted theory. But since the ocean already holds so many mysteries from us that don’t seem like they will ever be solved, it’s just more fun to believe it’s actually a monster
-The Pine Barrens Institute