Walking Shark: Great for Science, Great for Conservation

Lacy LangleyLife

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Science freaked out the laymen a couple of days ago when a new shark species was discovered in Indonesia. Oh yeah, and also...it walks. The new species, called Hemiscyllium halmahera, is a type of epaulette shark described in the journal Aqua: the International Journal of Ichthyology. The shark lives off the coral reefs along the coast of Halmahera, a remote Indonesian island.

Incredibly, this is not the first time a walking shark has been observed. This is the third known species of walking shark known to have appeared. The ReefQuest Center for Shark Research tried to explain in a statement just how this "walking" could be:

“The wriggling gait of the Epaulette Shark has been studied as a model of the probable limb movements used by the first tetrapods (four-footed vertebrates) to clamber from the sea onto land. This research provides evidence supporting the evolutionary theory that the paired limb movements necessary for terrestrial locomotion predate the first amphibians.”

Epaulette sharks, so named for the dramatic badge-like spot behind the pectoral fin, apparently use their fins to help navigate the uneven environment of a coral reef. Check it out:

The finding of the new Epaulette shark is not only an amazing discovery for science, but could be a huge boon to conservation efforts fronted by a group called Conservation International. Conservation International, whose scientists discovered the shark along with colleagues from the Western Australian Museum, added that it happened to come at a time when Indonesia was increasing its efforts to protect shark and ray species.Conservation International has been trying to turn the tide on the export of shark products from Indonesia, such as dried shark fins and shark meat.

Ketut Sarjana Putra, Indonesia country director for the group, said the Hemiscyllium halmahera shark could "serve as an excellent ambassador to call public attention to the fact that most sharks are harmless to humans and are worthy of our conservation attention".

Image courtesy of Channel News Asia

Lacy Langley
Lacy is a writer from Texas. She likes spending time in the home office, homeschooling her kids, playing the didgeridoo, caring for her chickens (Thelma and Louise), Rolos, Christmas, and Labyrinth.