Four New Species of Shark Identified

In 2011, researchers at the California Academy of Sciences added 140 new relatives to our planet’s family tree. The new species include 72 arthropods, 31 sea slugs, 13 fishes, 11 plants, nine sponges, three corals, and one reptile. These findings were described by more than a dozen Academy scientists along with dozens of international collaborators.

Proving that there are still plenty of places to explore and curious things to discover on Earth, the scientists made their discoveries over six continents and three oceans (Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian) — where they climbed to the tops of mountains and descended to the bottom of the sea.

Perhaps of most interest to readers are the four new species of shark that were identified.

Academy research associate David Ebert and his colleagues described four new species of deep-sea sharks this year. The African dwarf sawshark (Pristiophorus nancyae) was collected via a bottom trawl at a depth of 1,600 feet, off the coast of Mozambique. It is notable for its elongated blade-like snout, or “rostrum,” which is studded with sharp teeth and used as a weapon. The sawshark will swim through a school of fish swinging its rostrum back and forth, stunning and injuring prey, and then swim back to consume the casualties. Ebert and his colleagues also described two species of lanternshark: Etmopterus joungi from a fish market in Taiwan, and Etmopterus sculptus from trawling at depths of 1,500 – 3,000 feet off the coast of southern Africa. Like their name suggests, lanternsharks emit light on various parts of their body—probably a strategy to camouflage themselves from upward-looking predators and also to interact with others of their own species. Finally, a new species of angel shark (Squatina caillieti) was described from a single specimen collected in 1,200 feet of water off the Philippine island of Luzon. Angel sharks have flattened bodies and large pectoral fins resembling wings.

The Academy of Sciences’ results, published in 33 different scientific papers, add to the record of life on Earth and help advance the Academy’s research into two of the most important scientific questions of our time:

“How did life evolve?” and “How will it persist?”