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Nature

Sharks Species Shows Off Its Walking Ability As It Potters Along The Seafloor

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Rachael Funnell

Social Editor and Staff Writer

clockDec 24 2020, 14:13 UTC
These fins were made for walking. Ethan Daniels/Shutterstock.com

These fins were made for walking. Ethan Daniels/Shutterstock.com

When you think of sharks, you’re probably imagining a swimming apex predator’s dorsal fin cutting through the water’s surface, but there are increasing examples in the ocean which prove sharks have more than one mode of locomotion. A talented shark species proved this point earlier this year, as it was recorded for the first time using its pectoral and pelvic fins to potter along the seafloor in Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Named the leopard epaulette shark, Hemiscyllium freycineti, it joins eight other species of walking sharks and researchers predict there are many more to be found.

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“As for many ‘new’ species of sharks, these animals were known but just considered to be a population of another species,” wrote research fellow Christine Dudgeon from the University of Queensland in an email to IFLScience. “In the walking sharks there are now 9 described species but a decade ago there were 5. One of the species, Hemiscyllium ocellatum, which is the main species that is called the epaulette shark, was thought to be found throughout the distribution of the genus but because we have been able to use genetics to separate out species H. ocellatum is now restricted to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. 

“All the nine species are very similar. They are small (typically less than 1-meter total length), elongate with a long, single lobed tail. The body shapes are essentially identical and the only thing that separates them morphologically are their patterns. They are highly ornate and the patterns do vary from location to location.”

Walk on you crazy sharks.


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