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Fish # 10 Kitefin Shark Dalatias licha ~ Tony Baxter
Are You Looking at Me?
Acrylic on paper 20 x 30 cm
After being around for 45 million years, Dalatias licha is pretty good at being a shark. The origins of the name 'kitefin' are unclear and none of the fins remotely resemble kites. It is called the Black Shark in Australia and the Seal Shark in South Africa.
The species is found all over the planet living mostly on and at the edge of continental shelves. It has an elongated body with thin fins and large eyes, a short snout, thick lips and mouth full of interlocking teeth. The jaws are hugely powerful with the upper jaw consisting of smaller pointed teeth and the lower jaw made up of much larger triangular, serrated teeth. The kitefin shark may be dark chocolate brown, grayish black, cinnamon, or violet brown in colour. The kitefin is an aggressive, powerful, solitary predator that prowls around the ocean floor eating many types of prey. These range from bony fish, squid, octopus, and crustaceans but it also attacks species much larger than itself that it has no hope of killing such as large shark species and whales, settling for a few mouthfuls before making a quick getaway.
Living in deep water - between 200 and 1800 metres - this shark poses no threat to humans. They live mostly solitary lives only coming together in groups to mate. Embryos hatch inside the female's uterus and are sustained throughout a two year pregnancy by yolk. Up to 16 shark pups are born at a time each between 12-18 inches long. Few young kitefins have been seen and it is thought that they develop and mature in as yet undiscovered deep ocean nurseries.
Kitefin are eaten in Asian countries such as Japan and are considered a delicacy in Madeira and the Azores. Its liver is rich in oil and carcasses are processed into fishmeal once the liver is removed. Kitefin shark have been caught by deep water gill nets and long-lines targeting the species, and also as bycatch by deep-sea trawlers which dispose of any kitefin sharks as unwanted. Numbers of kitefin shark have been greatly reduced by over-exploitation, made worse by commercial vessels pushing into deeper water to catch the species present there. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature classes kitefin shark as 'Near Threatened'. However, in Europe the species is classed as 'Endangered' with a declining population trend.
If you wanted a deep ocean tag-wrestling partner, the kitefin would be your go to shark of choice. Despite being only 5 feet long and weighing in at 80kg, it is an unexploded powder keg of violence. The kitefin is convinced it is a great white or a bull shark (only harder) and would have the tag name 'Deadeye Killer'. It is fearless and slightly unhinged - as well as attacking anything that moves in the ocean, upper teeth from the kitefin have been found embedded in deep sea fibreoptic cables, no doubt bitten after being mistaken for monster black puddings.
About the artist
Tony Baxter was born in Liverpool and has lived in Doncaster since 1987. He describes his approach to painting as 99% perspiration and 1% desperation. He is spurred on by the forthright critical response to his work from family and friends and has received feedback such as: 'which way up is it supposed to be?'; 'I'm not having that in the house'; 'it might be worth something when you're dead'; and 'well that's another one for the pile.' He is founder member of his acrylic painting night class malt whisky tasting group which many would say is his finest contribution to the art world.
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