New species of walking sharks discovered near Australia

Pablo Tucker
January 23, 2020

These fins are made for walking.

Four species of sharks living in coastal waters around Australia and New Guinea have been spotted using their fins to walk on rocks and in very shallow water.

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

A denizen of shallow reefs between Papua New Guinea and Australia, the strolling sharks were discovered during a 12-year group study on global conservation by Conservation International in conjunction with the Florida Museum of Natural History, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences and Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries.

Scientists believe that there are still a few undiscovered species of "walking" sharks.

Given the enormous time scales involved, and the broad scope of worldwide waters, it can be hard to know exactly how these walking shark species came to be, and why they evolved their separate adaptations.

Genetic data suggests the different species evolved after they separated from the original population, spread to new areas and became isolated.

More research, she said, would help determine why the area off North Australia and New Guinea is full of biodiversity, including species of sharks that have the ability to walk. The bamboo shark, like the walking shark, is a benthic shark, meaning it lives on the seafloor.

"Walking sharks" are considered the newest "lineage of sharks" on Earth, the study says.

These creatures are relatively small (usually less than 85 cm, or 33.5 inches, in length) sharks, with the largest species measuring 1.22 m (48 inches). "This discovery proves that modern sharks have remarkable evolutionary staying power and the ability to adapt to environmental changes". Ultimately, this separation between populations could lead to the development of new species.

Of the nine walking shark species now known, three have already been added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, which lists species at risk. Isolation of one population of a species may result in that species adapting to very specific surroundings and eventually evolving into a separate species altogether, which is what happened with many types of birds found on the Galapagos islands.

The study, published this week in Marine & Freshwater Research, says all nine species are small, "restricted to the Indo-Australian Archipelago" and show little inclination to move beyond that region. Walking, swimming or hitching a ride?

Dr. from Queensland University.

Other reports by iNewsToday