I have had a crypto-zoological experience, having seen and photographed (see below) the fabled SNOW SHARK. The snow shark, known to Eskimos and a few of us in the Pacific NW, lives much of its life cycle under under icebergs in the Frozen North, but can hunt in snow over land, which it accesses through semi-frozen streams. It leaps up the streams like a salmon heading to spawn, then dives headlong into snow banks adjacent to the streams, and wriggles its way in, to hunt for prey on land. It has evolved the capability of heating pockets of air within it, which it then expels through special nostrils on its snout (regular sharks DO have nostrils on the undersides of their snouts, look it up, which they use for detecting smells, not for breathing); the heated air melts some of the snow ahead of it, which makes a slushy tunnel it gradually works through, and which also creates slushy water which it draws into its gills for breathing.

The Snow Shark noses through the snow relatively slowly, at first, but when it senses prey–it’s very sensitive to the vibrations of movement up to ten yards away–it worms closer then snaps its body in a leaping lunge, and snaps closed its powerful jaws on small dogs, cats, birds, and sometimes drink-sodden hobos. We wouldn’t be aware of it down here in Washington State, at all, except that climate change has melted away much of its habitat and diminished its natural prey, so it wanders southward, looking for extreme-weather systems whereby it can access the mainland. There were rumors of missing children in New York City, this winter…And now, here’s the photograph I took of one that was surfacing to begin its lunge-snap. It was after a squirrel–of which it made short work. The snow shark is rather compact, about the half the size of a grown dolphin, at most, and it quickly disappears with its prey beneath the snow cover. Notice, in the picture, the distinctive metallic sheen in the dorsal fin–that’s an evolutionary adaptation that helps it cut through the surface snow crust: it’s a mixture of iron absorbed from seawater (seawater contains 1-3 ppb of iron, look that up too) and the dentin constituting sharkskin scales.

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