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Australian researchers discover new species of 'walking' shark

By John Sevigny     Aug 26, 2013 in Science
Australian researchers have discovered a new shark species that uses its fins to "walk" across stony reef heads and the sandy bottoms of oceans in Indonesia.
Dr Gerald Allen, a research associate at the Western Australian Museum, along with his colleagues, caught two of the banded sharks, now known by their scientific name as Hemiscyllium halmahera, in the Maluku Islands, reported.
Their findings were published in the July 2013 issue of aqua: International Journal of Ichthyology.
The first "walking" sharks were discovered early in the 19th Century, according to scientists. What makes Hemiscyllium halmahera unique is primarily its appearance.
“Its features include a general brown coloration with numerous clusters of mainly 2-3 dark polygonal spots, widely scattered white spots in the matrix between dark clusters, relatively few (less than 10), large dark spots ... a pair of large dark marks on the ventral surface of the head, and a fragmented post-cephalic mark consisting of a large U-shaped dark spot with a more or less continuous white margin on the lower half, followed by a vertical row of three, smaller clusters of 2-3 polygonal dark marks,” Dr Allen wrote in his article for the journal on shark studies.
The discovery has provoked excitement among enthusiasts of sea life.
"If a large, charismatic shallow water fish like Hemiscyllium halmahera can go unnoticed for so long, then there’s no telling what abundance of freaky small reef fish, gobies, anthias, wrasses and dottybacks are also waiting to be found in the backwater reefs of northeast Indonesia," according to Web site Reef Builders.
The recently discovered species is part of a family called long-tail carpet sharks, or bamboo sharks.
More about New species, Shark, Australia, walking shark, Hemiscyllium halmahera
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