Finally some good shark news. Scientists discovered a new species of spotted, bottom-dwelling shark near the Galapagos Islands. It was first observed from a submersible vessel and named bythaelurus giddinsi. The new species is a cat shark and was seen at a depth of 1,600 feet. Each of the specimens that were collected is less than two feet long and all have pale spots in random, unique patterns.
One of the scientists noted the irony of discovering a new shark species in this period of great losses of sharks worldwide. He said ninety percent of the sharks that were alive when he was born are now gone.
“Many species have become locally rare and others verge on extinction due to their capture for shark-fin soup. The damage to food webs is dramatic, since sharks provide valuable ecological services as top-level predators — when they disappear, their niche is often filled by other species that further imbalance ecosystems,” said McCosker, Chair of Aquatic Biology at the California Academy of Science. (Source: Science Daily)
Six to seven of the new sharks were killed by the research though, as they were preserved in formaldehyde for study. They were collected over ten years ago, but the study results were just announced recently.
The new catshark only lives in waters near the Galapagos Islands. Endemic species are common in the Galapagos. Over three fourths of the birds are reptiles only live there. The same is true of many of the local marine species. Because of the tremendous number of unique species, Darwin was able to do important research there which helped him formulate his ideas about adaptation and evolution.
Islands are susceptible to climate change though, so the time remaining to study them might be running out. The Maldives and Tuvalu are two island nations that might be flooded by rising seas. Galapagos species also face climate changed-related impacts.
Image Credit: California Academy of Sciences