Scientists discovered four new species of ‘walking’ sharks

Shark scientists spent years sampling the DNA of the nine known “walking” shark species — and in the process, they found four more that appear to be the most recently evolved sharks on the planet.

In January, the scientists published their findings about these walking sharks in the journal “Marine & Freshwater Research.”

“The discovery proves that modern sharks have remarkable evolutionary staying power and the ability to adapt to environmental changes,” said Mark Erdmann, the paper’s co-author and Conservation International vice president of Asia-Pacific marine programs.

The scientists explained that during mass extinction events, sea levels rose and ocean temperatures dropped, which forced sharks to migrate to warmer areas. The sharks off the coast of Australia were carried on moving tectonic plates or drifting islands roughly 10 million years ago from New Guinea to Indonesia where they still live today. Because they were separated from other sharks due to the environmental factors, they evolved into a separate species.

Even today, these sharks live isolated, sedentary lives in reefs until reaching adulthood. Scientists say they never leave the coral reefs where they hatched.

One of the sharks almost appears lizard-like in the video. Dubbed Hemiscyllium, the walking shark uses its four lower fins to traverse the reef’s landscape. This makes it appear as if the rest of its length is a tail rather than its body.

Erdmann explained that because these animals inhabit coral reefs, which are threatened by climate change, conservation efforts are necessary.

“A global recognition of the need to protect walking sharks will help ensure they thrive providing benefits for marine ecosystems and to local communities through the sharks’ value as tourism assets,” he told CNN.

If you enjoyed this story, you might like to check out this drone footage of a whale swimming directly towards surfers.

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