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Rare Shark Specie Discovered in Australia

Published: July 22, 2023 - 09:00
Updated: July 23, 2023 - 02:55
Rare Shark Specie Discovered in Australia

A rare shark egg case was found washed up off the coast of Perth, on the west side of Australia, back in the 1980s.

It was only in 2011 that a volunteer from the Western Australian Museum in Perth spotted the egg case in the museum archives among other egg cases. Despite being rediscovered just over a decade ago, it was only last April that the new species was listed in the Journal of Fish Biology as a new variety of demon catshark, Apristurus ovicorrugatus.

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rare shark egg
Credit: CSIRO Australian National Fish Collection Anterior front view of the egg case ridges of rare sharls Apristurus ovicorrugatus

The Discovery

Identifying the shark species has been an exciting challenge, bringing experts together to “liaise with each other and talk with each other” said Will White, senior curator of the Australian National Fish Collection at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), in an interview with the BBC. White explained that when the egg was originally retrieved, little attention was paid to its morphological features, and it was placed with other cases in the museum archives.

The egg cases from the 1980s were brought to light again when the single egg found by the volunteer was recovered along with other egg cases of the same type, all found at depths ranging from 410m to 504m underwater. Through efficient detective work, it was finally confirmed that a new species had indeed been discovered.

Shark Taxonomy

The morphology of the shark egg case is crucial in identifying the taxonomic classification to which the invertebrate belongs. Thus, the egg can reveal a story. By comparing the found egg with existing data in the database, the egg was narrowed down to belonging to the genus Apristurus. This determination was made based on the T-shaped ridges that formed the egg’s features. Furthermore, the developing embryo within the egg also indicated the genus through its hind fins form.

Apristurus ovicorrugatus is a type of demon catshark that resides 700m deep underwater. It specifically lays eggs in coral reefs, at depths dark enough to provide complete darkness. The egg cases are designed to support the shark’s development offering protection. This elusive species is not well known, particularly due to its resemblance to other species, which makes it difficult to pinpoint distinguishing features.

In conclusion – The Rare Shark

Currently, there are over 500 known shark species, and this number is increasing. White is currently working on another new species of catshark withing the same genus, Apristurus, but with different egg case ridging morphology. This species was caught off Queensland, Australia.

It is remarkable to note that the number of species within the genus is growing as new species are being discovered. In fact, over the past two decades, nine new species have come to light. However, the depth at which these species thrive limits information about the preferred substrate for egg deposition and attachment methodology. Additionally, the lack of information also means that less is known about the main function of the ridges that form the egg case.

Notably, this serves as a clear example that a museum display and a research paper alone are insufficient to represent what realistically exists underwater. Commercial fishing, ocean warming, and species evolution will always exert pressure on the development of new species. In light of these findings, it is crucial to continue exploring and studying the depths of our oceans to uncover the hidden diversity and understand the ecological dynamics that shape our marine ecosystem.

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About author

Jasmine Mifsud
Jasmine Mifsud, who hails from Malta, has an incredible interest in the water surrounding the small island. Her passion for the sea is not surprising, since as a little girl, her biggest dream was to explore the oceans. This ambition created its own pathway as every decision she ever made led her to become an influential woman who decided to create a life for herself instead of living in someone else’s shoes. As time flew by, she became more adventurous and curious about our blue planet. She specialized in environmental sciences and took a tangent route into maritime archaeology, which she considers to be one of her best decisions to date. Throughout her journey, she has built friendships with some of the most inspiring divers globally, all of whom share unique experiences and stories worth listening to. As a young woman in the industry, her journey has only just begun.
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