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Emergence of new shark species from deep oceans

It took more than 30 years for scientists to finally find the answers to the most basic questions, and in doing so, an entirely new species of shark was discovered. More than two decades later, humans are still discovering new species of the ocean’s most amazing predators.

By the mid-1980s, science had identified about 360 species of sharks, from light species such as the 20-centimeter pygmy lamprey to the giant plankton-eating whale shark, the largest fish species in the oceans. But in a little more than 40 years, this number has increased by 40%. There are now more than 500 known species of sharks, and new ones are still being discovered.

These discoveries are the result of exploring the waters of the world’s oceans as much as they are the result of painstaking efforts in the archives of museum collections. Take, for example, a shark that produced strange egg cases. Will White, senior curator of the Australian National Fish Collection at the Australian Cooperative Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), was part of the team that helped make the discovery.

The egg cases were discovered during a visit to Rowley Shoals and placed in the museum’s archives without anyone noticing the strange bumps on them.

In 2011, researcher Bret Human was volunteering at the Western Australian Museum in Perth when he came across the egg cases. Humann linked the egg case to other eggs found off the coast of Australia and suggested that the species might be a member of the cat shark family. But he could not determine the species accurately.

“He did a really good job of identifying it, and he did a better job than other people,” White said. But there was no progress in this area until we, in collaboration with Helen O’Neill, began the work of examining the sample.”

In the 1980s, samples of egg cases were sent to the CSIRO and no one investigated further. White and his colleagues knew that the eggs discovered in the 1980s came from a certain depth (between 410m and 504m) and began examining sharks caught at the same depth.

The CSIRO collection included a specimen believed to be a cat shark from southern China that was pregnant when caught. Scientists dissected it and found a developing embryo inside an egg case that had the same distinctive ridges that had been discovered years earlier at Rowley Shoals. Research by scientists showed that it is a completely new species, and the mystery that had puzzled Australian scientists for about thirty years was finally solved.

New species with scientific name Apristurus ovicorrugatus It was described in the Journal of Fish Biology in April 2023. This cat devil shark lives about 700 meters below the surface of the water and lays its egg cases on the coral reefs in the deep water so that the sunlight can reach them.


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