Two new shark species found in Indian Ocean

Posted by Ilhaam Bardien on 19 March 2020

Two new species of shark, residing in the West Indian Ocean, have been identified. These new species are six-gill sawsharks.

According to CNN World, the two species were discovered separately. In the case of the first, known as ‘Pliotrema annae’, a lucky fisherman happened to catch the creature in Zanzibar.

The other species, known as ‘Pliorema kajae’, was discovered in a more ‘traditional’ manner. Snouts were collected in Madagascar as researchers collaborated with locals and additional specimens were discovered in museum collections thereafter.

Scientists from Elasmobranch Research Laboratory in Hamburg, who were researching small-scale fisheries off the coasts of Madagascar and Zanzibar, were privy to these findings and proceeded to investigate. Their findings were published on Wednesday, 18 March.

As for what they look like, the newly-found sawsharks have their snouts as a distinguishing characteristic. The snouts are long, and packed with teeth making them quite distinctive as they resemble a saw. Additionally, these sharks can grow to about 1.5 meters in lengthen .

Simon Weigman, a researcher at Elasmobranch Research Laboratory and lead author in the research on these sharks, said the finding was ‘simply astonishing’.

‘”Astonishing” barely covers it; these sharks are pretty ridiculous looking, especially from below”, he said to Inverse.


Image: Twitter / Andrew Temple


Image: Twitter / Andrew Temple


Before now, there was only one known species of six-gill shark, called ‘Pliotrema warreni’. These two new discoveries add to the list of recognised sixgill species. Scientists still have little knowledge about this type of shark.

They do, however, know that these sharks are carnivores with their diet including fish, crustaceans and squid. The saw, or the snout, is used to hunt prey.

‘The discovery re-enforces both how important the western Indian Ocean is in terms of shark and ray biodiversity, but also how much we still don’t know,’ said study co-author Dr. Andrew Temple, from Newcastle University, in a statement.

Temple also said that while they may have just been discovered, they could already be vulnerable.

‘Knowledge of sawsharks in the western Indian Ocean is generally still scarce. But considering their known depth distributions, both new species are likely affected by fishing operation. ‘This assumption, combined with the limited range and apparent rarity of both new species, raises concerns that they are vulnerable to overfishing and might be in continuing decline,’ said Temple.

‘The discovery of two new sixgill sawsharks also demonstrates the value of scientists working with local communities. Without the participation of fishers we may never have found these animals,’ said lead researcher Weigman, in an article he published on The Conversation.

Image: Twitter / WWF Sharks

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