Walking sharks who can leave the water discovered in Indo-Australian Archipelago
Researchers have found four new amazing species of sharks which use their fins to walk across sea floors and reefs.
The discovery was published earlier this year in a Marine and Freshwater Research journal.
The new shark species were observed in the shallow tropical waters of the Indo-Australian Archipelago, which is situated between mainland Indonesia and the north-west coast of Australia.
Brightly colored and approximately one meter in size, these are not the kind of sharks many people associate with the name.
And they are certainly very different in the way they move: although they can swim, they can also use their pectoral fins in the front and pelvic fins at the back to move along the seafloor. The sharks are also observed atop coral reefs – outside of the water, during low tide.
The scientists believe the newly found sharks are apex predators within their environment – shallow waters around reefs.
Their ability to walk gives them an advantage when wriggling between rock pools in order to chase down prey such as crabs, crayfish and other small fish.
“At less than a meter (3.2 feet) long on average, walking sharks present no threat to people but their ability to withstand low oxygen environments and walk on their fins gives them a remarkable edge over their prey of small crustaceans and molluscs,” said Dr Christine Dudgeon of the University of Queensland.
There could be more walking sharks yet to be discovered
The four new species brings to a total of nine walking sharks which have been discovered. They are commonly known under the scientific name of ‘epaulette’ sharks.
According to Dr Dudgeon, it’s possible that there may be more species of walking sharks living in isolated patches in the region.
“Data suggests the new species evolved after the sharks moved away from their original population, became genetically isolated in new areas and developed into new species,” she explained.
“They may have moved by swimming or walking on their fins, but it’s also possible they ‘hitched’ a ride on reefs moving westward across the top of New Guinea, about two million years ago. We believe there are more walking shark species still waiting to be discovered.”