Five days ahead of ‘Shark Week,’ researchers announce the discovery of a new shark species.
A new species of dogfish shark has been spotted in the Gulf of Mexico and the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, the Florida Institute of Technology announced earlier today.
The discovery was made by a team of four marine biologists, including the institute’s Toby Daly-Engel, who described the new dogfish shark species in a paper published in the journal Zootaxa.
Belonging to the genus Squalus, a group of deep-water sharks, the new species was initially thought to be part of the closely related Squalus mitsukurii species complex.
However, upon a closer inspection of the animal’s physical traits (a study method known as morphology), followed by genetic testing, the researchers realized they had stumbled upon a previously unknown species of dogfish shark.
“Deep-sea sharks are all shaped by similar evolutionary pressure, so they end up looking a lot alike. So, we rely on DNA to tell us how long a species has been on its own, evolutionarily, and how different it is,” explained Daly-Engel, who is an assistant professor and shark biologist at the Florida institute.
The news comes just five days before the start of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, which this year runs from July 22 through July 29 and celebrates 30 years on the air, as previously reported by the Inquisitr.
New Shark Species Dubbed ‘Squalus Clarkae’
By sequencing the mitochondrial genome of several Squalus species, including S. mitsukurii (typically found in Japan), other three closely related species (S. cubensis, S. blainville, and S. megalops), and S. cf. mitsukurii from Brazil, the team uncovered that the newfound dogfish shark species was genetically distinct from all the others.
This new species was given the name Squalus clarkae, in honor of the late explorer and famed marine biologist Eugenie Clark, founder of the Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida.
“Genie established Mote and she lived on the Gulf of Mexico coast,” said Daly-Engel. “She did a lot to advance our understanding of marine biodiversity there. So, naming the dogfish shark from the Gulf of Mexico after her is the most appropriate thing in the world.”
Dubbed Genie’s Dogfish, S. clarkae is 2.8 percent genetically divergent from its close relative, S. mitsukurii, and has a longer body and a shorter caudal fin, as well as a first dorsal fin that is differently proportioned, reveals the study. In addition, the newfound dogfish species has a shortened distance between its eyes compared with its cousins.
According to the team, which also included Dean Grubbs and Chip Cotton, both from Florida State University, S. clarkae has replaced S. mitsukurii in the Gulf of Mexico.
“This type of research is essential to the conservation and management of sharks, which currently face a multitude of threats, from overfishing and bycatch, to the global shark fin trade,” said study lead author Mariah Pfleger of Oceana, who is Daly-Engel’s former graduate student.
Who Was Eugenie Clark
World-class ichthyologist Eugenie Clark was a pioneering shark biologist and a trailblazer for women scientists. Born on May 4, 1922, in New York, Clark spent her life studying fish, and sharks in particular, with the mission to teach the world about these feared and ancient creatures.
This earned her the moniker “Shark Lady,” which the science community fondly uses to remember the acclaimed scientist and explorer.
“She is the mother of us all,” said Daly-Engel, who got to meet Clark when she joined the American Elasmobranch Society, which counted the esteemed marine biologist among its earliest members.
“She was not just the first female shark biologist, she was one of the first people to study sharks,” Daly-Engel added.
Over the course of her life, Clark led more than 200 research expeditions and performed 72 submersible dives as deep as 12,000 feet (3,650 meters). Her field research activities have taken the renowned explorer all over the world, including the Red Sea, Gulf of Aqaba, Caribbean, Mexico, Japan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Thailand, Indonesia, and Borneo.
The famous American ichthyologist died on February 25, 2015, in Florida.
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