updated 1/24/2007 9:33:35 AM ET 2007-01-24T14:33:35

A species of shark rarely seen alive because its natural habitat is 2,000 feet or more under the sea was captured on film by staff at a Japanese marine park this week.

The Awashima Marine Park in Shizuoka, south of Tokyo, was alerted by a fisherman at a nearby port on Sunday that he had spotted an odd-looking eel-like creature with a mouthful of needle-sharp teeth.

Marine park staff caught the 5-foot long creature, which they identified as a female frilled shark, sometimes referred to as a “living fossil” because it is a primitive species that has changed little since prehistoric times.

The shark appeared to be in poor condition when park staff moved it to a seawater pool where they filmed it swimming and opening its jaws.

“We believe moving pictures of a live specimen are extremely rare,” said an official at the park. “They live between 600 and 1,000 meters under the water, which is deeper than humans can go.”

IMAGE: Frilled shark
Awashima Marine Park / Handout via Getty Images
A rare frilled shark swims in a tank in Numazu, Japan, earlier this week.
“We think it may have come close to the surface because it was sick, or else it was weakened because it was in shallow waters,” the official said.

The shark died a few hours after being caught.

Frilled sharks, which feed on other sharks and sea creatures, are sometimes caught in the nets of trawlers but are rarely seen alive.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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