Wednesday, 03 March, 2021


Walking sharks found near Australia

Kristine Garrett | 23 January, 2020, 19:11

The four new shark species were discovered in the tropical waters of the Indo-Australian Archipelago, which lies between mainland Indonesia and Australia.

But no need to worry about sharks stalking you on land - these freaky predators are completely harmless to humans.

University of Queensland's Dr Christine Dudgeon said the ornately patterned sharks were the top predator on reefs during low tides when they used their fins to walk in very shallow water.

"These unique features are not shared with their closest relatives the bamboo sharks or more distant relatives in the carpet shark order including wobbegongs and whale sharks", explained Dudgeon, who added that she believes more walking sharks are yet to be discovered. The find comes after a 12-year study and nearly doubles the number of known species of walking sharks, bringing the total to nine.

"Data suggests the new species evolved after the sharks moved away from their original population, became genetically isolated in new areas and develop into new species", she said.

The University of Queensland also thinks there mare more species of "walking shark" yet to be discovered, says Dr Dudgeon.

"A global recognition of the need to protect walking sharks will help ensure they thrive providing benefits for marine ecosystems and to local communities through the sharks' value as tourism assets", said Erdmann. The unbelievable marine creatures were located in a region between New Guinea, northern Australia, and eastern Indonesia.

As a group, walking sharks are small, averaging at 70 centimeters (27.5 inches) and reaching a maximum length of 107 centimeters (42 inches). Ultimately, this separation between populations could lead to the development of new species.

"For most of the walking shark species, our findings support the idea that speciation occurred because the populations slowly expanded their range by walking or swimming, then some individuals eventually became isolated by environmental factors such as sea level rise or the formation of large river systems that broke up their habitats", Dr. Erdmann said. In particular, they could in the process of moving to learn "walk" on the fins, but it is possible that it happened after moving to the reefs that occurred about 2 million years ago.

Scientists previously believed the Epaulette Shark (Hemiscyllium ocellatum) was the primary species of walking shark across the region.

The species can survive with very little oxygen for up to an hour. The scientists also said the discovery is important to understand the overall evolution of the species in a region with the highest tropical marine biodiversity worldwide.

The full study was published this week in the CSIRO journal Marine and Freshwater Research.

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