Scientists discover four new species of walking sharks
Scientists have discovered four new species of shark as a part of a recently published study. The amazing marine creatures were located in a region between New Guinea, northern Australia, and eastern Indonesia. The researchers said that the newly-discovered shark species belong to the genus Hemiscyllium, members of which primarily live in the same tropical region.
The research team compared the mitochondrial DNA found in these sharks with five other previously known species and ran a genetic analysis on tissue samples extracted from the walking sharks. The tests revealed that the walking shark species were after all connected to other species from the same genus. Most of the members of the genus bear a marked resemblance when it comes to body size and morphology. They have uniquely adapted themselves to use their fins to help with mobility and can survive in waters with low amounts of oxygen.
The fish are known to roam about the sea floor in search of small fish and invertebrates like crustaceans and mollusks to prey upon. The international group of scientists who have been working on the study for more than a decade, published their findings in the multidisciplinary journal Marine and Freshwater Research. A total of nine such species of walking sharks were identified in the new study, including the latest addition. The sharks are not bigger than a meter in length on average and are deemed harmless for humans.
Co-author of the paper, Mark Erdmann of the Conservation International, an US-based nonprofit environmental organization, said in a press release that “We found the sharks, which use their fins to ‘walk’ around shallow reefs, only split off evolutionarily from their nearest common ancestor about 9 million years ago, and have been actively [spreading] into a complex of at least nine walking sharks ever since.”