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Shark researcher Paul Clerkin takes EW on a dive into 'Alien Sharks'

The ocean is a vast space, much of which has yet to be uncovered. Sharks are no exception, and what’s out there might will surprise you. Insert Alien Sharks: Return to the Abyss, which aired tonight on Discovery Channel and explored the mysterious world of alien sharks.

The special was led by shark researcher Paul Clerkin (pictured above holding a longnose velvet dogfish), a fourth year graduate student at San Jose University, studying marine science at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories with a focus on shark ecology at Pacific Shark Research Center; working with and discovering new shark species has been the focus of his research. In the special, Clerkin set out to uncover never-before-seen alien sharks, and in many ways his search proved successful.

Here, Clerkin talks about his passion—alien sharks—his new discoveries, and his holy grail: the bigeye raggedtooth shark.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How do you define an alien shark?
PAUL CLERKIN:
Alien sharks have otherworldly features they’ve adapted from living in an environment so different than our own. Because we rarely have access to this world, they are very strange to our eyes. That is part of why I love studying them. Sharks are an incredibly diverse group, and there is an entire world below the surface that we have not explored. In an ever-shrinking world, it is exciting to venture to remote locations and discover species that have remained hidden for the last 400 million years. Weird sharks need love, too.

You are one of a select few to see these creatures in the wild. What is it like seeing these alien sharks up close, especially considering that most people will only see these creatures on-screen?
It is simply amazing. There is no other way to put it. The animals have such unique features, and as a shark scientist, I am thrilled to be fortunate enough to encounter and handle these beautiful monsters. There is something humbling about being the first human to ever interact with a species that has existed since before the dinosaurs.

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