According to a recent study, four species of sharks that use their fins to walk have been unearthed in New Guinea and northern Australia.
Who figured sharks could walk? It may sound chilling, however, researchers claim only invertebrates and small fish need to be concerned. “At less than a meter 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 scientist at Australia’s University of Queensland and study lead author, spoke in a statement.
The new four species nearly double the total number of identified walking shark varieties to nine. “Instead of swimming around, these little bottom-dwelling sharks actually ‘walk’ using their pectoral and pelvic fins, which makes it easier for them to poke their heads under coral and rocks as they look for small fish, snails and crustaceans to eat,” said Mark Erdmann, study co-author of Conservation International. Walking sharks matured roughly 9 million years ago, according to Erdmann, making them the “youngest” sharks on planet Earth. “The discovery proves that modern sharks have remarkable evolutionary staying power and the ability to adapt to environmental changes,” Erdmann noted to reporters.
Dudgeon added: “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. 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. And they may not be the only ones still around. We believe there are more walking shark species still waiting to be discovered.”
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