Scientists have identified a new species of shark that makes its way around the ocean by "walking" on top of corals and rocks.
Walking sharks -- which are also known as longtail carpet sharks or bamboo sharks -- are of the family Hemiscylliidae. Rather than using their fins for swimming, walking sharks move by wriggling their bodies and pushing off the surface of ocean matter with their pectoral fins.
The discovery of the latest species of walking shark, Hemiscyllium halmahera, marks the 10th creature known in the strange family of sharks.
Writing in the July 2013 edition of aqua International Journal of Ichthyology, Gerald R. Allen, a researcher at the Western Australian Museum, and his colleagues describe the new species, of which they found two specimens off the coast of Indonesia's Maluku Islands, which lie in the archipelago nation's east.
In the abstract to their paper, the researchers describe the shark as a clearly distinct species based on its color pattern, particularly the way it is spotted with clusters of two or three dark polygonal spots, 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."
The new species is "most similar in general appearance to H. galei from Cenderawasih Bay, West Papua," the researchers wrote, but that fish has many more spots than the new species they have described.
Walking sharks tend to be nocturnal creatures that prefer the comforts of shallow tide pools. But ebbing and flowing water in tidal pools can sometimes leave the sharks stranded. Once species of walking shark, the epaulette shark (Hemiscyllium ocellatum), has evolved to cope with severe oxygen depletion by systematically shutting down non-essential parts of its nervous system. The fish can survive in complete anoxia for as long as one hour without showing ill effects.
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