Sharks have ruled the oceans for more than 400 million years. And throughout these years, they have unfairly earned a reputation as ruthless man-eaters. Due to their decreasing numbers driven by overfishing and disappearing habitats, these sea predators turned into a threatened animal species. They have also been more aggressive than ever. However, these newfound species of 'walking sharks' will change your perceptions of them.
|Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons|
A recent study published in the journal Marine and Freshwater Research revealed four new species of sharks which belong to the genus Hemiscyllium, also known as the family of ‘walking sharks.’ The total number of these species is now nine, and they mainly inhabit the oceans between the eastern territory of the Indonesian archipelago and northern Australia. What makes these new species different from other sharks is its amphibian-like abilities such as being able to breathe out of water.
|Photo Credits: All That's Interesting|
The said capability of the walking shark is not found among any of its closest relatives, like the bamboo sharks or the carpet shark order. Aside from that, the species is much less frightening compared to the sharks that we know. According to All That’s Interesting, a site for curious people who want to know more about what they see on the news or read in history books, they only eat crustaceans and mollusks. The team found out that they are relatively harmless to humans.
|Photo Credits: Phys.org|
“At less than a meter [3.3 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 mollusks,” Christine Dudgeon, a researcher at Australia’s University of Queensland and the new study’s co-author, explained.
Another interesting discovery about these new species of walking sharks is that they split off evolutionarily from their nearest common ancestor about nine million years ago. Co-author Mark Erdmann from the Conservation International stated that the species have been actively spreading into a complex of at least nine walking sharks ever since.