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79 New "Cryptic" Species of Sharks Discovered

Jul 29, 2012 11:27 AM EDT

At least 79 new species of sharks have been discovered by the scientists in South Carolina.

Researchers at the Hollings Marine Laboratory at Fort Johnson on Charleston Harbor studied the DNA by allowing the genes to stick to the molecules. This way the researchers were able to compare the genetic coding of the 79 new species with that of the other species. They found that the newly discovered sharks are different from others and called them the "cryptic" species.

Cryptic species are those that have the same features as that of the sharks but their genetic sequencing differs from one another. Researchers believe that the sequencing of DNA can help in understand the evolution of organisms, reported the Associated Press.

Besides the 79 new species, the experts expect more species to live in the ocean. So far 1,200 species of sharks and rays are said to be living in the ocean.

"We're pretty sure there are a lot more out there," biologist Gavin Naylor told the Associated Press adding, "We're just a bunch of nerdy scientists doing the best we can. I'm pretty sure we have barely scratched the surface."

Researchers believe that the DNA study can help in genetic study of humans as the sharks are the oldest invertebrates that have jaws like humans.

There is an alarming decrease in the population of sharks around the world. Sharks are hunted for their fins and liver oil. Sharks have a very low birth and slow growth rate which makes them vulnerable to extinction.

A recent study suggested that the shark population in Pacific reef has decreased by 90 percent.The International Union for Conservation of Nature, a global environmental organization has placed some species of sharks including the Great Hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran) and Scalloped Hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini) as globally "endangered."

Other sharks like the basking sharks and Oceanic Whitetip sharks have been given the "vulnerable" status. Basking sharks are declared as "endangered" in the North Pacific and Northeast Atlantic regions.

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