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Monday, October 18, 2021

New ‘weird looking’ shark species from Indian Ocean discovered

It belongs to the Apristurus spongiceps subgroup and is the second known species occurring in the western Indian Ocean.

Written by Aswathi Pacha | Kochi |
July 22, 2021 5:56:50 pm
Apristurus manocherianiApristurus manocheriani is a deep-sea shark usually found at depths from about 200–2200 metres. (DAVID A. EBERT)

In 2012 and 2014, researchers from the Pacific Shark Research Center in the US conducted surveys along the Southwest Indian Ridge or the underwater mountain system that bisects the ocean between Africa and Antarctica. While studying the seamounts situated to the south of Madagascar, the team collected eight deep-sea sharks and started studying them in detail.

They revealed recently that the sharks belonged to a new catshark species and named it Apristurus manocheriani, in honour of Greg Manocherian, a supporter of shark conservation and research. They proposed a common name – Manocherian’s Catshark.

If you wish to take a look at the preserved specimens of the new species, head to the Department of Ichthyology at the California Academy of Sciences. The facility houses over a million specimens of fish and many thousands are yet to be studied. You might not want to get close to a live one as it had numerous large teeth in the upper and lower jaw. An average male and female of the species can measure about 55cm and 49cm, respectively. The findings were published in the Journal of the Ocean Science Foundation.

Strange species

When asked why this species looks a bit weird, lead author of the study David A. Ebert explained in an email to IE.com: “Sharks are a very diverse group and people do not realise that there are nearly 536 species. The discovery of this new deep-sea species also highlights how little we still know of the deepsea.” He is the Program Director at the Pacific Shark Research Center and author of the book ‘Sharks of the World: A Complete Guide’ published last month.

“The new species is part of the largest shark family – Pentachidae and also part of the largest order of sharks – Carcharhiniformes,” he adds. “At the moment we are unaware of any existing threats to the species since it appears to live around seamounts far from landmasses. However, now that it is named we can further investigate. The team is currently working on some additional species from the same region that were also collected as part of the project.”

Understanding catsharks

Catsharks belonging to the genus Apristurus have been found in almost all oceans, including the Arctic, but not the Antarctic. They are mostly found at depths from about 200–2200 metres and prefer slopes, seamounts, deep-sea ridges, and trenches.

There are 39 species belonging to this genus and the majority of them are in the western Pacific. Six species have been reported from the western Indian Ocean.

The genus Apristurus is further divided into three subgroups – longicephalus, brunneus and spongiceps. The longicephalus subgroup has a very long, narrow, and slender snout, while the other two have relatively shorter snouts. The newfound species belongs to the Apristurus spongiceps subgroup and is the second known species occurring in the western Indian Ocean.

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